TIMMINS -- Timmins city councillor Joe Campbell is pushing for the city to reinstitute COVID-19 rent relief for businesses, charities and non-profit organizations that rent from the city and still feeling the impacts of the pandemic.

Campbell pointed out at Tuesday's city council meeting that the financial struggles many faced during the initial lockdown persisted after regions moved to the provincial Stage 3 reopening plan in July.

Even as the federal government recently revised its Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) to bypass landlord approval, organizations like the Schumacher Lions Club say they are still ineligible and yet unable to fundraise as usual.

"(The Lions Club) lost $80,000 by not having the craft show, the sportsman show, their stag and bar sales," said Campbell. "They're basically in need and any of the organizations that have slipped through the cracks, without qualifying for these programs, it's up to the city to step up to the plate and help them out."

'It's tying our hands'

Schumacher Lions Club treasurer John McCauley said the club can't use money from online fundraisers for rent, saying that can only happen through fundraisers held at its hall in the McIntyre Community Centre.

McCauley said the club does not have a payroll account with the Canada Revenue Agency because its volunteers are not paid, so the club's attempts to obtain federal funding have been unsuccessful.

"We're governed by a bunch of rules that we have to follow and it's tying our hands, so to speak," McCauley said. "Right now, we don't have any funds to pay (the rent) and it's discouraging."

The City of Timmins had a rent relief plan in place to defer between 25 per cent and 100 per cent of rent for city-owned property for the months of April to July, depending on the business or organization's revenue deficit.

Campbell wanted council reinstate the relief plan for those still facing lost revenue, but ineligible for CERS until they can properly reopen.

'There's so many loopholes'

Asked if the city could instead call on local members of parliament to ask for more amendments to the program, Campbell said people can't afford to wait for federal action and then notice further gaps.

"We've been down that road ... there's so many loopholes that you can't close," said Campbell. "This is an organization that requires support right now."

Meanwhile, McCauley said any money the club could generate from 50/50 fundraisers, for example, must be reinvested in the community. Even then, he said the club hasn't had much success with donations lately.

"We're basically running at a loss," McCauley said. "If things keep going the way they are now, we're just going to have to fold. It's as simple as that."

'Slipping through the cracks'

That wouldn't mean shutting down the club completely, he said, but it would have to close its physical location.

Timmins' chief administrative officer, Dave Landers, acknowledged at Tuesday's meeting that businesses and non-profits not covered by federal funding are suffering. He said the city's treasurer will bring more information to the next meeting so council can make a decision.

Councillors Andrew Marks and Corey Robin asked that it be clarified how the city had approached rent relief, whether there are other options available for businesses and organizations to turn to and what the potential cost would be for the city.

Campbell said it's a straightforward situation.

"They're slipping through the cracks, so any way that we can help them with their rent, we have an obligation as a city to do it," he said.