Municipalities on Vancouver Island working out how to receive pandemic relief funding

Municipalities throughout Vancouver Island are reviewing their books to figure out how best to use new funding to help offset the financial impact of COVID-19.

Monies were announced this month as communities continue to grapple with continued closures of many of their facilities. At the same time, virus numbers are rising and new stricter safety measures have been recently been announced by the province.

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Under the federal-provincial Safe Restart Agreement, $425 million is going to help reboot economies in B.C. communities.

On Vancouver Island, funds range from $200,000 for Zeballos up to $7.45 million for Saanich.

In the lower range, $249,000 will go to Tahsis, $268,000 to Sayward and $315,000 to Alert Bay.

After Saanich, Nanaimo receives the next largest amount at $6.69 million, with Victoria following at $6.5 million.

Communities receiving between $4 million and $5 million are Langford, Campbell River, North Cowichan, and Courtenay.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said Tuesday that staff will be reporting to council on how to use the funds.

“The money is assigned to cover costs related to COVID, so staff are now working on where we will be assigning that,” he said. A report will come to council.

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said the funds will be helpful. “We’ve taken a real hit. The revenue from our recreational facilities largely disappeared for a long time.”

Even for facilities that reopened, new safety precautions mean that staff have doubled in some recreation venues as revenue is lower than usual, Krog said.

“That’s true of everybody.”

Facilities are also seeing some cancellations of sports groups, he said. “They are not coming out to play because of the risk of code and spreading it.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said earlier that the money will help the city deliver services citizens count on.

The City of Victoria, along with other municipalities, is beginning budget discussions for the coming year.

Vanderhoof Coun. Brian Frenkel, president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, said he was “very pleased to see the speed at which the federal and provincial governments have delivered this funding to local governments in B.C.”

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, local governments have taken steps to manage costs and rethink budgets, but communities are contending with significant revenue shortfalls. These funds will be available for immediate use and provide greater clarity as budgets are developed for the coming year.”

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