(Minister of Finance Carole James/Facebook)

The B.C. Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced on Thursday that commercial property tax bills will be reduced by an average of 25 per cent.

This is being done by reducing the school tax rate for commercial properties enough to achieve an average 25 per cent reduction in the total property tax bill for most businesses.

The new announcement builds on the original 50 per cent provincial school tax rate reduction that was already in place for classes 4, 5, and 6 businesses as part of B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan.

Penalties for late payment of property taxes for commercial businesses of class 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 (businesses as well as recreational properties and non-profit organizations) will not be applied until October 1st, 2020, giving property owners more time to pay their taxes.

In addition to these announcements, the province is also providing local governments with supports to address revenue shortages.

Municipal governments will now be allowed to borrow, interest free, from their existing capital reserves to help pay for operating expenses like employee salaries.

The provincial government is delaying school tax remittances until the end of the year, which is expected to provide significant relief to governments experiencing cash flow issues.

Local governments will also be given more flexibility to carry debt for an extra year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having significant financial impacts on all levels of government. It’s going to take hard work from both municipalities and the provincial government, but working together we will get through this,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

“Many local governments have already shown leadership by taking steps to help people and businesses and maintain services, while addressing their finances. With these new measures, we are giving local governments new tools as a first step to ease their financial burdens and that of businesses in their communities now, and as we look to recovery in the months to come.”

These relief measures fall within the $5 billion COVID-19 Action Plan announced last month to support individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic.

See all the latest updates about the global COVID-19 pandemic on Vancouver Island

The BCCDC has set up a 2019 novel coronavirus telephone information line at 1-833-784-4397 for those who have further questions about this disease.

Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.

The Province has also created the 1-888-COVID-19  line to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about the coronavirus pandemic.

As of the time of publication, the total number of COVID-19 patients worldwide has risen to 2,119,300.

Over 141,000 people have died from the illness and 535,455 have made a full recovery.

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