Thursday, March 30, 2023
March 30, 2023

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Vancouver council votes to extend business fee refund program

By , Columbian staff writer

Businesses based within Vancouver city limits can continue to save money on certain city-imposed fees through the end of the year.

The Vancouver City Council authorized the extension of its ordinance suspending business license and surcharge fees, which was enacted during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak in April 2020. The measure was an effort to shield businesses most impacted by the pandemic from financial strain.

The city of Vancouver charges $200 for a base license fee and $90 per employee surcharge for all employees of businesses within city limits. Restaurants and breweries, fitness facilities, theaters and bowling centers can apply for a refund of the fees that are paid through Dec. 31.

COVID-19-related restrictions will likely continue to impact businesses in these industries, according to a staff report. They can use surcharge savings to support patrons’ safety.

Natasha Ramras, Vancouver’s chief financial officer, said approximately 620 mailings were sent to eligible businesses within the past year, and 110 filed refund requests, totaling about $96,000. Out of those who submitted applications for refunds, 103 were eateries.

Council member Kim Harless touched on the importance of making the city’s outreach for the program accessible. City staff are set to expand the program by reaching out in a variety of languages, so businesses are aware of the money-saving opportunity, Ramras said.

Vancouver normally produces about $5.5 million a year from business license and surcharge fees, which is used to fund police staffing and transportation. The adoption of this ordinance is expected to cause a $500,000 reduction in the city’s revenue.

Further information about the surcharge program, including eligibility, can be found on the city’s financial and management services website page.