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Niagara announces planned locations of COVID-19 vaccination sites

Once vaccine supply is available, the following 11 locations have been identified as clinic sites:

  • Fort Erie – Leisure Plex
  • Grimsby – YMCA
  • Lincoln – Lincoln Community Centre
  • Niagara-on-the-Lake – Community Centre
  • Niagara Falls – MacBain Community Centre
  • Pelham – Meridian Community Centre
  • Port Colborne – Vale Health and Wellness Centre
  • St. Catharines / Thorold – Brock University (free parking)
  • Wainfleet – Community Hall
  • Welland – YMCA
  • West Lincoln – Community Centre

These clinics have been strategically located to ensure that 90 per cent of the population will not have to travel longer than 15 minutes to receive a vaccine, and all sites are accessible by public transit.

The Region is also considering other sites in the larger centres, including the ongoing use of the Seymour-Hannah facility in consultation with Niagara Health once they have completed their provincial priority mandate.

The clinics listed here will be offered in addition to local pharmacies and family doctors who may also provide the vaccine once supply is made available.

While some other communities are already administering the vaccine to individuals who are 80 and older, it is important to remember that Niagara received fewer vaccines, and at a later date, than other places in Ontario. Also, when compared to other areas of the province, Niagara has more residents living in congregate settings.

These delays in delivery, and a larger number of residents in places like long-term care homes, resulted in the Region being about a month behind some other places in the province.

Residents are reminded that Public Health is not currently booking vaccination appointments, and they should not call at this time.

Ontario government introduces Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act, 2021

The Ontario government is introducing the Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act, 2021 which proposes to reduce costs to broadband providers associated with attaching broadband wirelines to hydro utility poles, and would provide timely access to poles and to municipal rights of way to install broadband on municipal land.

As many as 700,000 households and businesses in Ontario lack access to adequate broadband speeds, or have no internet connection at all. These proposed measures would help communities connect to reliable broadband sooner, so people can work from home, learn online, connect with family and friends, and access vital services.

Under the legislation, the Minister of Infrastructure would have the authority to act on provincially significant projects, including the ability to:

  • Ensure municipalities and utility companies provide timely access to their infrastructure, including municipal rights of way and hydro utility poles, when appropriate.
  • Support an approach to reduce the time it takes to prepare electricity infrastructure such as hydro utility poles for a new wireline attachment for provincially significant projects.
  • Ensure owners of underground infrastructure provide locations of their infrastructure within 10 business days for specific broadband projects prior to a dig through the Ontario One Call system. This would allow internet service providers to more quickly start work on laying down underground broadband infrastructure.

This legislation, if passed, would also amend the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998, to provide the Ontario government with regulation-making authority regarding the development of, access to, or use of electricity infrastructure for non-electricity purposes, including to:

  • Reduce or fix the annual rental charge that telecommunications service providers must pay to attach their wirelines to hydro utility poles.
  • Establish performance standards and timelines for how utility companies must respond to attachment requests.
  • Require utility companies to consider possible joint use of hydro utility poles during their planning process, and transparency around when and where hydro utility poles are scheduled for replacement or refurbishment. This would help to save time and money in the future as telecommunications service providers seek to enter new communities.

Niagara Region Public Health prepares for rollout of large-scale vaccination later this month

With vaccination supply increasing later this month and the AstraZeneca vaccine now approved as a third vaccine in Canada, Public Health has plans ready to deliver vaccine on a large scale to protect the Niagara community as soon as vaccines have arrived.

Some parts of Ontario received initial COVID-19 vaccine shipments in December, a month earlier than Niagara. Some of these regions have begun limited vaccination of persons 80 years of age or older, while Niagara finishes vaccination of our highest risk population. As the provincial portal launches on March 15, and as vaccine becomes more plentiful later in March, Niagara is poised to deliver mass vaccination at the same time as the rest of the province.

Once the provincial portal is open and mass vaccination clinic information becomes available, Niagara Region Public Health will notify eligible groups through broad communications (via community partners, media, advertising, social media, etc.) as well as the COVID-19 vaccination webpage.

The provincial government has announced that a centralized vaccination registration portal will launch on March 15. This portal will be used by local public health agencies across the province and mass vaccination clinics will begin soon after this portal is launched, including in Niagara. At present, there is no waiting list and the general public cannot register for a vaccine appointment. Those currently eligible for the vaccine are being contacted directly by either Niagara Region Public Health or Niagara Health.

Niagara will have vaccination clinics in all parts of the region.

After vaccinating those 80 years of age and older, Niagara Region Public Health will follow the provincial prioritization criteria to move through progressively younger age brackets until all persons 60 years of age or older have had the opportunity to get vaccinated. At that point, essential workers throughout the region as well as other high-risk residents (e.g. those with chronic medical conditions) will be able to get vaccinated. The Ontario government hopes to open vaccination up to all Ontario residents by the start of fall.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that the September goal for mass vaccination could be moved up if deliveries continue and if promising new vaccine candidates are approved. U.S. President Joe Biden has claimed that the United States will have enough vaccines to offer doses to the entire population by the end of May.


Wage and rent subsidy amounts to remain unchanged through to June

Today, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, announced that the government intends to extend the current rate structures for these subsidies from March 14 to June 5, 2021.

  • The maximum base wage subsidy rate for active employees would remain at 40 per cent, and the maximum top-up wage subsidy rate for employers most adversely impacted by the pandemic would remain at 35 per cent. As such, the maximum combined wage subsidy rate would remain at 75 per cent.
  • The maximum rent subsidy rate would remain at 65 per cent.
  • Lockdown Support would remain at 25 per cent and continue to be provided in addition to the rent subsidy, providing eligible hard hit businesses with rent support of up to 90 per cent.

A separate wage subsidy rate structure applies for furloughed employees. To ensure that the wage subsidy for furloughed employees remains aligned with benefits available under Employment Insurance (EI), and that workers are provided with equitable treatment between the two programs, the weekly wage subsidy for a furloughed employee, from March 14 to June 5, 2021, would remain the same and continue to be the lesser of:

  • the amount of eligible remuneration paid in respect of the week; and
  • the greater of:
    • $500; and
    • 55 per cent of pre-crisis remuneration for the employee, up to a maximum subsidy amount of $595.

Since the wage subsidy and rent subsidy programs launched, an organization’s decline in revenues has generally been determined by comparing the change in the organization’s revenues in a current calendar month with its revenues in the same calendar month of the previous year. An organization may also elect to use an alternative approach, which compares the change in the organization’s monthly revenues relative to the average of its January 2020 and February 2020 revenues.

The GNCC has previously requested that the maximum rate remain at 75%, and is pleased at this announcement. However, we have also noted that the current eligibility scheme excludes many new and seasonal businesses, and have repeatedly asked that new criteria be drawn up that would cover businesses in these categories which have been unduly affected by the pandemic. The Canadian Chamber has also been advocating for these programs to keep 2019 as the reference period from which businesses can determine the level of decline in their revenue, rather than the year-over-year calculations currently used.

City of Welland
For Immediate Release
MARCH 4, 2021
Welland, ON – Earlier this year, City Council supported Staff’s recommendations to streamline the approval process for temporary outdoor patios and adding outdoor displays for 2021. At this week’s meeting, Welland City Council approved Staff’s recommendation to refund and waive all costs associated with obtaining a business license in 2021, excluding fire inspection fees.

Automatic refunds will be completed for businesses that have already paid fees for 2021. Businesses who have yet to submit their 2021 application will still be required to do so to obtain a valid license; additionally, all required inspections will need to be completed.

“Welland City Council and Staff are extremely supportive of our business community. Waiving of the business license fees will hopefully assist them as they deal with significant issues related to COVID-19,” stated Mayor Frank Campion. “We continue to look for other ways of assisting the business community.”

On average the City of Welland issues approximately 300 business licenses each year. For more information on City of Welland COVID-19 recovery, visit welland.ca.

GNCC asks Niagara to remain vigilant and prevent another lockdown

Today’s release of Niagara pandemic metrics for the week of February 21-27 has revealed that our numbers are beginning to move in the wrong direction again. The change is not great, but nevertheless, the incidence rate, percentage of positive tests, and reproductive number – metrics which the Government of Ontario uses to determine the stage of reopening under the provincial framework – have all gone up.

For a huge number of businesses and people in Niagara, 2020 was a terrible year. Many of our local firms have been kept afloat only through government subsidy. Many others have had to close. People have lost their livelihoods. The economic damage to the careers and earnings of our young people will likely last years or decades. And this is not to mention those who have gotten sick, who have died, or who have lost loved ones to this pandemic.

It is imperative that we avoid another lockdown and control the pandemic. So far, Niagarans – like all Canadians – have done well. We have followed public health guidelines and kept each other safe, and thus managed to avoid the disaster which has befallen countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and many European states which have seen per-capita death rates many times our own.

We know that, after almost a year of restrictions, your frustration and exhaustion is mounting. But with mass vaccinations imminent, the end is in sight. The GNCC asks that everyone remain strong, follow public health guidelines, avoid unnecessary risks, and stay safe. We can get through this by working together and supporting each other.

Don’t miss our luncheon option for our upcoming International Women’s Day webinar. We can’t wait to bring you this exclusive event on March 8th, 2021. 

We’ll be hearing from Dr. Lorraine Jensen from Niagara Health, Stephanie Dafoe from the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, and Leanne Briggs from Greater Fort Erie Secondary School on their challenges through 2020 and their hopes for 2021. 
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City of Welland
For Immediate Release
MARCH 4, 2021
Welland, ON – The City of Welland Recreation and Culture Division has been awarded a Provincial Seniors Community Grant in the amount of $20,650 to provide a Seniors’ Centre Without Walls (SCWW) program in Welland. The SCWW program will provide a dependable, supportive group and learning centre by connecting seniors with a variety of essential programs and activities from the comfort of their home.  

Starting March 22, seniors can easily join and enjoy free programming using their telephone; no computer or internet is needed. Just a phone call connects participants with educational discussions, health and wellness activities, local history conversations, games sessions and service information. Seniors are not alone when they join this interactive telephone-based virtual seniors’ centre. It’s fun, free and easy!

If you or someone you know is finding it difficult to get out and be part of the community, Seniors’ Centre Without Walls will be available mornings and afternoons on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays starting March 22 until the end of May.

Registration can be done by contacting erperngvba@jryynaq.pn or 905-735-1700 ext. 4000 and referencing Seniors’ Centre Without Walls (SCWW). A downloadable calendar of events is available on the Seniors’ Centre Without Walls section on the Online Wellness Guide https://wellness.welland.ca, printed copies are available at the Welland Community Wellness Complex and all branches of the Welland Public Library. 

Alexis Higginbotham
Executive Director
60 East Main Street
Welland, ON
L3B 3X4
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