LONDON, ONT. -- A three-month deferral of business license fees during the COVID-19 pandemic took a step forward at London city hall on Tuesday.

Councillor Mo Salih’s motion to delay payment of business licensing fees for new food establishments and renewal fees for the taxi and limousine industry was unanimously recommended by the Community and Protective Services Committee.

Salih explained he wants city hall to provide immediate financial relief to some of the hardest hit small businesses, “It’s to make sure people are able to eat, and that people can get from point A to point B.”

Already 70 per cent of London’s largest taxi fleet, U-Need-A Cab, is idled by a lack of passengers.

Fees paid by Uber drivers are calculated per ride, so they will not be included in the relief plan at this time.

“What I view as the bigger goal, and the bigger task, is to come up with a comprehensive plan to help those people and businesses who need it immediately,” stressed Councillor Phil Squire.

Salih’s motion included direction to have municipal staff prepare a report outlining additional steps city council can consider to further relieve financial pressures stemming from COVID-19.

But the committee removed new ‘Personal Service’ business licenses from the fee deferral plan, including hair, nail and tattoo shops.

“How are we going to open a business license to a business that can’t open? Most of those have been deemed non-essential services by the province,” asked Councillor Shawn Lewis.

The financial relief measures received a unanimous recommendation from the Community and Protective Services Committee.

Council will consider final approval April 7.