The City of Edmonton is planning to cut licence fees for businesses and vehicle-for-hire vendors by 50 per cent in 2021 as they try to rebound from the economic impacts of COVID-19.
Council’s executive committee unanimously endorsed reducing half of annual licence fees this year for all businesses applying for renewal or new operations on Monday. For businesses who have already paid their fees in the first three months of the year, their 2022 fee would be slashed by 50 per cent.
If approved by all of council in early April, this fee reduction would apply to all licensed businesses automatically and not by request like the 2020 program. City data shows only three per cent of 35,828 business licence applicants took advantage of the waiver last year. Licence fees vary depending on the operation and range from $244 on the low end up to $2,500 for cannabis businesses and $3,214 for casinos.
An estimated $4.9-million loss in revenue as a result of the waiver can be offset through the COVID-19 reserve, the city’s chief financial officer Mary Persson told the committee. But she said this reduction will leave the reserve “quite tight” in responding to other potential costs, including temporary shelter operations and vaccine rollout assistance.
Mayor Don Iveson said even with that in mind, providing financial support to businesses during these trying times is a worthy cause.
“It is not just a gesture, it is material for a business that has zero cash flow right now which some do. But I think it is also an indication of our desire to want to help them survive,” Iveson said. “I’d rather do it than not and then find other resources elsewhere against the other COVID-19 needs if necessary.”
The city is also recommending a 50 per cent fee reduction for 2021 vehicle-for-hire dispatch and vehicle licence fees. Council’s community and public services committee will discuss the report Wednesday.
More to come.