Update from City staff and Ottawa Public Health concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
UPDATE FROM CITY STAFF
City staff will be tabling an interim property tax payment grace period and new 2020 property tax deferral for Council approval on March 25, or at the earliest available opportunity, that will help small businesses and residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grace period for interim property tax payment
With the interim property taxes mailed out in mid-February, the City will grant property owners a grace period for payment – late payment penalty will not be applied during the current March 19 deadline to Wednesday, April 15, 2020. The interim property tax bill covers 50 per cent of the entire property tax bill.
Property owners who are enrolled in the pre-authorization debit plan are not affected by the grace period and requires no action on their part.
New 2020 Interim Property Tax Hardship Deferral Program
In response to the financial impact of the uncertainty of this evolving COVID-19 pandemic, a new 2020 Property Tax Hardship Deferral program is being developed to assist affected small businesses with an assessed property value of up to $ 2.5 million, as well as residents. The program will extend the interim property and final property tax deadlines of March 19 and June 18, respectively, to Friday, October 30, 2020.
To qualify, an account would need to have been paid up-to-date before the interim tax installment.
The application and more details on the program and other qualifying criteria will be available on ottawa.ca after it has been approved by Council – which convenes on March 25.
Water service disconnections suspended
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has suspended all water disconnections due to non-payment until further notice.
Existing deferral and grant programs
In addition to the COVID-19 program, the City has existing deferral and grant programs in place.
Deferral of property taxes and water bills for low-income seniors and low-income people with disabilities
The City has existing property tax and water bill deferral programs for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Under these programs, eligible homeowners can apply for partial or full deferral of their annual property taxes and a deferral of their water utility bills.
Applying for these programs can be done online via email. Details of the program and eligibility is available on ottawa.ca
Farm Grant Program
This relief program for hard working farmers allows eligible farm property owners to move the deadline of the final property tax payment to December 8, 2020. Details of eligibility and the program can be found on ottawa.ca.
Residents have several payment options for property tax and water bills that can be done from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
- My Service Ottawa portal
- Telephone and online banking through their financial institution
- Debit or credit payment online at ottawa.ca
- Pre-authorized debit
UPDATE FROM OTTAWA PUBLIC HEALTH
“Dear residents of the City of Ottawa,
The past week has seen a very quick escalation from all levels of government in response to the COVID-19 situation. I want to publicly respond to a few common questions and concerns to help provide clarity on our approach at the local level.
As a reminder, please visit our website OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus for local information about COVID-19, including assessment and testing in Ottawa, self-isolation and social distancing. Due to high call volumes please try to not call unless you have read the website first.
Testing and Assessment
The present goals of testing for COVID-19 are to detect the virus in our community and also limit the spread of the virus. Lab testing helps us estimate cases in the community. For each laboratory-confirmed case related to travel, there is a likelihood that at least an equal number of travel-related cases are undetected. Based on current confirmed cases, whose onset of illness is in the past, there could potentially be anywhere between 200 to 1000 undetected causes in the community now. We do not yet have laboratory-confirmed community spread, though we do see cases giving rise to cases in close contacts.
With this information, I am communicating to all people in Ottawa that we need to act as if the virus is here, circulating in our community.
The testing isn’t able to track down each case in our community because the mild illness the majority of people experience is not distinguishable from common colds and we cannot test large numbers. Having a COVID-19 test result or not does not change the actions that individuals in the community need to take – if ill with a respiratory illness, stay home – and for all of us, now is the time to limit our interactions with others as much as possible.
The current COVID-19 testing provides a pulse check and helps us make decisions about our next steps to control the spread of COVID-19. It also helps limit spread COVID-19 by the highest risk cases. Self-isolation and social distancing are effective strategies for slowing the spread at the community level.
Check our website to learn more about when to self-isolate and when to go for testing: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus. You do not need a referral from Ottawa Public Health to get tested for COVID-19. At a high level:
- If you are a return traveler (including travel to the United States of America) OR have MILD symptoms – you MUST self-isolate. Most people with MILD symptoms will recover at home with no issues. You are helping limit the spread of the virus by staying at home.
- For now (this may change), our priority is to test people with escalating symptoms AND travel history within 14 days OR close contact with someone with COVID-19.
- We are also prioritizing ruling out COVID-19 in workers, such as health-care workers or Long-Term Care Homes.
In the future, the goals of COVID-19 testing are likely to shift towards being used to limit outbreaks in settings of high risk. The focus of testing would turn to health care and essential workers, hospitalized patients, long-term care homes, correctional facilities and other situations where the result is helpful to direct public health actions.
Social distancing refers to creating physical distance between ourselves so that we can limit the spread of the virus. Social distancing by all is IMPERATIVE to limit transmission in the community, to protect vulnerable populations and outbreaks in institutions. We must “flatten the curve” so we don’t see spikes in cases. By this, I mean that we want to slow down transmission of the virus and lessen the number of cases in the community that happen at the same time, so that our health system continues to work properly. Having a sharp increase of cases in a small timeframe will overload our healthcare resources and have more severe impacts on our community. Social distancing is important for everyone at this time, but especially important for our older adult community (55+). Do NOT gather in groups of 10 or more. Practice social distancing.
Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. Check in with others by phone or other technology. Check in with yourself. It’s ok not to be ok. Please know that help is available, and we encourage you to reach out to Distress Centre of Ottawa to connect with someone at 613-238-3311 if needed.
Case Management and Privacy
We have received many questions from people who feel they are at risk, including many people expressing concern about being in the same location as someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who may have symptoms of COVID-19.
I would like to clarify a few points:
- Given the transmission of COVID-19, we are all at risk. Social distancing, proper hand hygiene, not touching your face and self-isolation (when directed) are the best ways to reduce your personal risk at this time.
- A close contact of a case of COVID-19, is someone who has lived with, provided care for, or spent longer periods of time with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.Case and contact management if a role of public health to help identify who may have been in close contact with a confirmed case. Ottawa Public Health will contact you directly if you have been identified as a close contact.
- OPH works closely with each confirmed case of COVID-19 to create a list of close contacts that require follow-up. If you have been contacted by Ottawa Public Health, follow the advice provided to you by the nurse.
- If you have not been contacted by Ottawa Public Health, please do not assume that you are a close contact. Continue to take social distancing and other precautions and, if needed based on the guidance on OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus, follow self-isolation or testing directions.
Regarding privacy, Ottawa Public Health will not comment about any specifics around an individual case of COVID-19. We encourage others to not pursue this information unless an individual issues their own statement to this effect. Ottawa Public Health will contact you directly if you are a close contact.
The reportable information that we are required to share with the Ministry of Health:
- Patient age and gender
- Transmission (community, travel or close contact)
- Status (self-isolating, hospitalized, etc.)
I have been made aware that certain residents have received a phone call asking for credit card information from Ottawa Public Health (OPH). OPH (or any health unit) will not ask you for credit card information. Do not give your credit card information out if you receive a call or message similar to this. Fraudulent activity during a situation like this is deplorable. I encourage you to report it to Ottawa Police Services.
Thank you to all residents of the City of Ottawa for your ongoing patience and cooperation. We are all in this together, and we need everyone to do their part- whether providing an essential service or staying inside – to be able to slow the curve and protect our health system.
Dr. Vera Etches
Medical Officer of Health
Ottawa Public Health