VICTORIA -- The District of Saanich is suspending all penalties on late utility bill payments until further notice.

The district agreed to delay all penalties “for the foreseeable future” at a council meeting Tuesday.

Under usual circumstances, a five per cent penalty is applied if payments are not made within 45 days of a bill’s issued date.

The penalties are being postponed indefinitely, however, due to COVID-19.

“We want to help relieve the financial stress put on Saanich families and businesses during this challenging time by ensuring there are no penalties for late payments,” said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes.

“Our municipality has very limited levers to provide financial relief. However, we are doing what we can.”

The district asks that anyone who is able to pay their utility bills on time continue to do so.

“We trust that those who can pay, will pay,” said Haynes.

Utility bill payments go towards core services like maintaining Saanich’s clean water and sewage systems, and garbage and waste collection.

Saanich predicts that the suspension of late payment penalties will cost the municipality approximately $15,000 a month.

The district says that any possible changes to property taxes or tax deferrals will be made by the provincial government and is not in the hands of Saanich.