Winnipeg faces $30.3M deficit amid COVID-19 cash crunch

Winnipeg is facing a $30.3 million deficit by the end of the year.

The latest projected deficit is down significantly from the initial projection — $67.4 million — which City of Winnipeg finance staff attributes to measures the city took to tighten spending during the coronavirus pandemic, but the projection is up still from the last financial status report, which projected a $29.9 million deficit.

“Though implementing the COVID-19 Crisis Cash Flow Management Plan is helping us weather the fiscal storm in 2020, I remain concerned about the ongoing impacts of the pandemic on the city’s budget through 2021,” St. James Coun. Scott Gillingham, who chairs the finance committee, wrote in a statement.

Winnipeg Transit lost the most cash. In an administrative report that will be presented to the finance committee Oct. 14, the transit authority projected $32.4 million in shortfall, up from $29.1 million in the last financial status and forecast report.

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At the height of the pandemic, transit ridership plummeted by 72 per cent, the city has said.

Read more: Bus driver layoffs announced during City of Winnipeg coronavirus update

To keep money in city coffers, the city temporarily laid off non-permanent community services staff, froze hiring for the rest of the year, stopped buying vehicles, froze senior management salaries, introduced voluntary furloughs and temporarily laid off bus drivers and other transit staff while reducing bus service.

The city also replaced cash to capital with debt.

While the federal government has allocated $19 billion to its “Safe Restart” funding program, which will be doled out to provinces that will in turn dole the cash to cities and municipalities, City of Winnipeg finance staffers didn’t include any of that money in their newest projection.

“Amounts have not yet been determined. Discussions with the Province of Manitoba are ongoing,” the report reads.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Winnipeg announces temporary layoffs of over 670 city workers

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