EDMONTON -- The City of Edmonton is temporarily reducing business licence fees for struggling owners — one move in a range of measures aimed at providing "real and tangible relief" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Don Iveson revealed the city's Economic Recovery Program Wednesday after council unanimously approved the plan.

The city will set aside an estimated $3.1 million in order to cover the reduced fees, which will be available to businesses that need relief and have licence renewals pending. They'll have the option to reduce their licence fee payment by half until Dec. 31, 2020. Businesses must contact the city to take advantage of the reduced fee option. However, only those with renewals between June 1 and the end of the year are eligible — about 21,000 businesses.

"I would encourage every business in the City of Edmonton, step up and ask for your business licence relief," said Ward 11 Councillor Mike Nickel.

Iveson said the program will help "fill in some of the gaps that extensive provincial and federal programs have yet to meet."

It was one of five measures announced to ease the burder the pandemic has placed on local businesses.

Iveson also announced the creation of the Edmonton Economic Recovery Grant, a funding program that will provide grants of up to $25,000 for businesses "struggling to reopen or pivot their business as a result of COVID-19." Businesses who receive the grant will be required to match the grant amount.

In a two-pronged approach, grants of up to $75,000 will also be available to local business associations "who deliver projects or programs that directly support the grant program criteria." Associations will not be required to match the grant amount.

There are eight criteria upon which businesses and associations will be evaluated:

  • Jobs
  • Financial stability
  • COVID-19 impact
  • Partner leverage
  • Economic diversification
  • Business transformation
  • Tangible placemaking benefits
  • Environmental alignment

The city said it will have a better idea of how the process will work when it is brought forward to council on June 8.

"It's not even going to scratch the surface," said Nickel. "But what it will create is some animosity because the City's now going to pick winners and losers."

The recovery effort will also continue a one-on-one support program for local businesses, reduce red tape and help businesses quickly adapt to specific needs for relaunch and recovery, Iveson said.

Most of the money comes from scaling back the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, plus $700,000 from council's office budgets.

The grant application will be available on the City of Edmonton's website after June 8, with funds expected to be doled out starting in mid-June.

Iveson said the latest measures supplement a two per cent property tax break for businesses announced in late April.

He has repeatedly called on the provincial and federal governments to help municipalities, warning that services including transit could face cuts as a last resort if financial aid is not provided.