VICTORIA -- The B.C. government has announced several new supports to help local businesses and municipalities cope with the financial challenges of COVID-19.

To assist businesses and non-profit organizations, the province is lowering the school property tax rate for commercial properties. The province estimates the tax reduction will save businesses an average of 25 per cent on property tax bills.

The province says that the school property tax reduction is in addition to the government’s previously announced 50 per cent reduction in school property tax rates, and will save business owners up to $700 million across B.C.

Meanwhile the province is delaying the date that late payment penalties kick in for commercial properties in classes 4,5,6,7 and 8 until Oct. 1.

“Property tax, that’s one of those fixed costs that landlords have to collect from their tenants and then remit forward, so any reduction help to reduce the pressure on landlords which indeed translates to less pressure on our small and medium-sized businesses who are their tenants,” said Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

To assist municipalities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial government is introducing new measures to help local governments access funds during the health crisis.

Municipalities can now borrow from existing capital reserves without incurring any interest to help pay for employee salaries and other essential operating expenses.

Additionally, local governments have more options to carry debt into the next fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the province is delaying provincial school tax remittances for municipalities until the end of 2020.

“These measures will provide local governments with the resources to meet their operational costs and required remittances to regional districts, regional hospital districts, TransLink and transit authorities, BC Assessment, the Municipal Finance Authority and other taxing authorities,” said the B.C. government in a statement Thursday.

“This will ensure that other minor taxing authorities can count on receiving the full amount they bill to municipalities and the province’s surveyor of taxes before Aug. 1, 2020.”