Hamilton faces a COVID-19 deficit of up to $122M if lockdown persists

Hamilton is expecting a budget shortfall of as much as $122 million now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least 14 more people in Hamilton have gotten COVID-19 since Friday

The city is facing a budget deficit of between $61.6 and $122 million, depending on how fast services reopen. (Colin Cote-Paulette)

Hamilton is expecting a budget shortfall of as much as $122 million now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

City finance staff say if the pandemic's lockdown period ends on June 30, and the recovery period goes until Dec. 31, the shortfall will be around $61.6 million.

If pandemic measures last longer though, and the lockdown of courts and other services ends in December, the recovery period will go to the end of 2021, the report says. That would cause a shortfall of $122 million.

An $8-million budget hike typically results in a one per cent tax increase. That means under the most conservative estimate, without help from the federal or provincial governments, taxes would increase about 13 per cent. Municipalities also can't run deficits, so unless federal and provincial governments help, or the province grants special permission for Hamilton to run a deficit, the city will have to make drastic cuts. 

The city has enough cash on hand right now, says the report. But "if circumstances change and emergency orders are extended further into late 2020 or 2021, the city's cash flow position may become more severe."

The city released a map on Friday showing the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in Hamilton. (City of Hamilton)

The largest cash crunches stem from transit, which will have an estimated $27 million in lost revenue this year, and recreation losses of $9.2 million because facilities have been closed and programs aren't running. When they do open again, the report says, registration will likely be half what it was before. Other shortfalls include $7.4 million more for Public Health Services, $2.5 million more for paramedics, and $4.5 million in lost Provincial Offences Act revenue because the courts are closed.

City council's general issues committee will discuss the report at 9:30 a.m. Monday. Finance staff are recommending various means to make up some of the loss, including taking money from several reserves and cancelling or postponing 127 capital projects to free up $29.1 million. The report also recommends taking $1,144,000 in capital levy dollars and putting them into a new COVID-19 reserve, and $32.6 million in federal gas tax funds.

When the pandemic started, the city said it would waive penalty and interest for up to two months on people who missed their April 30 tax instalments.

Revenue dropped 18 per cent from April 2019, the report says. As for commercial properties, there was an 80 per cent increase in missed payments from the year before.

Overall, 14 more people are known to have COVID-19 in Hamilton since Friday — or 769 on Sunday (762 confirmed, seven probable) versus 755 cases two days ago. 

Forty-two people have died and 616 have recovered. That means 111 people have the virus right now. Thirty-four people are in hospital.

The city released a map on Friday showing the prevalence of Hamilton COVID-19 cases by neighbourhood.


The number of cases in Brant/Brantford is holding firm at 117, and the number of people who have recovered is still 106. Four people from the county have died of the virus.


One more person in Haldimand-Norfolk has COVID-19 since Friday, for a total of 413 since the pandemic started. Of that total, 144 people have recovered, which means 269 have the virus right now. Thirty-one people have died. 

Many of the cases are migrant farm workers at Scotlynn Group, a large farm operation based in Vittoria, Ont. 

On Friday, the Health Services Appeal and Review Board ruled against parts of the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit's section 22 order regarding the self-isolation of migrant farm workers. Specifically, it ruled against the requirement that only three workers can stay in a bunkhouse, regardless of the size of that bunkhouse. Instead, the board said, each bunkhouse should be evaluated individually. 

"We are disappointed by the board's decision," the health unit said in a media release. 


Three more people in Halton are believed to have COVID-19 (two probable, one confirmed), for a total of 782 since the pandemic started. Of those, 658 people have recovered and 25 have died, which means there are 99 people known to have the virus right now. 

In Burlington, 25 people are known to have the virus right now. Two more Burlington residents have been diagnosed since Friday, for a total of 155 during the course of the pandemic. Seven people in the city have died.


There are 46 people known to have COVID-19 in Niagara right now. Throughout the pandemic, 725 people have been confirmed to have it and 618 have recovered, while 61 have died. There are three more cases than Friday, and two institutional outbreaks are ongoing.



Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She often tweets about Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca