The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has agreed to reduce licensing fees for short-term rental owners by 33 per cent this year, a request that had previously been rejected.
This time the motion was passed unanimously.
“Since March, the situation for bed and breakfast owners has become even worse than we feared,” John Foreman, president of the Bed & Breakfast Association, told council.
Operators “are facing a second consecutive historically bad year. It is likely that the entire first half of the year will be lost,” he said.
Foreman previously presented to council in March with several requests for aid. This time, his sole request was a 50 per cent reduction in fees.
A 50 per cent cut in fees would have roughly cost the town $71,000 in lost revenue, according to treasurer Kyle Freeborn.
The motion was met with some resistance until Lord Mayor Betty Disero asked Freeborn whether previously released COVID emergency funds from the government would be able to cover the cost.
Freeborn answered yes and councillors quickly agreed to pass a motion by Coun. Norm Arsenault to lower the fees by 33 per cent.
Earlier in March, the province released COVID-19 emergency funds for municipalities and $427,000 was earmarked for NOTL.
Coun. Allan Bisback brought up a recent program to help small travel and tourist businesses in Ontario, wondering if the association had heard of it.
The Ontario Tourism and Travel small business support grant provides $100 million in funding to aid eligible businesses, including bed and breakfasts. The program offers one-time payments of $10,000 to $20,000, according to Ontario.ca.
Disero requested that Freeborn forward information about the program to Foreman.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report