WINNIPEG -- Relief for Winnipeg taxpayers during the pandemic is on the way.

 “This measure is unprecedented in our city’s history and we know that many of our residents, many of our businesses are hurting right now,” said Mayor Brian Bowman

 In a 15 to one vote Friday morning, city council approved a plan to allow businesses and homeowners the ability to defer taxes for three months.

 “People are scared they don’t know what’s happening tomorrow,” said Councillor John Orlikow.

 Council also agreed to let the city use the rainy day fund to make up potential shortfalls because of the current situation.

 Instead, some councillors argued the city should put cost-saving measures in place now.

"I would have cancelled as I’ve think I said, all non-essential spending immediately, I would have cancelled all non-essential capital purchases,” said Councillor Kevin Klein.

 “Discretion is off the table here, mandated reductions across the board must be done know,” said Councillor Shawn Nason.

 In a separate move, council voted to declare a local state of emergency.

 That allows the city to use hotels to house vulnerable people, restrict access to areas of contamination and crackdown on price gouging.

 “We are anecdotally hearing some chatter of individuals hoarding medical supplies,” said city manager of Emergency Operations Centre, Jason Shaw.

 The city also announced some skywalks may close and the roll-out of the low-income bus pass is being delayed until May 1.

 With transit fares down, the city says it is considering scaling back bus service on weekdays to an enhanced Saturday schedule.

 The city was asked if that could result in layoffs.

 “There’s been no layoffs to date and that’s something I’m very pleased hasn’t occurred yet,” said Bowman

To ensure the business of Winnipeg City Hall continues, council also voted to hold meetings electronically for four months starting April 20.