The pandemic threw a curveball at the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s (CSRD) budget, but a COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant from the provincial and federal governments is helping the regional district weather the financial hit.
The CSRD is receiving $645,000 from the program, which is designed to address the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and restart plans of local governments. All municipalities and regional districts in B.C. received funding through this program.
CSRD directors approved spending $387,907 at its regular board meeting, Dec. 10, while holding back on the remaining $257,093 to determine any additional impacts on the CSRD’s finances. The funds do not have to be allocated until Dec. 31, 2021.
Protecting CSRD firefighters was one of the top priorities for the funding.
This will allow for the purchase of self-contained breathing masks for every firefighter. Previously, these masks were shared and cleaned between each use. But the need for increased cleaning and disinfection of these masks was proving problematic. To ensure the safety of each firefighter, the CSRD Board agreed to spend $130,000 so each firefighter could have their own breathing equipment.
Additionally, the CSRD is using approximately $93,000 to cover the unexpected costs of COVID-19 safety measures including: hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, plexiglas barriers, enhanced cleaning and signage. This involves upgrades to all CSRD-owned facilities across the region. New software and computer technology was purchased to support the CSRD’s remote work option for employees, and also to provide the public with electronic access to CSRD meetings.
Supporting the Shuswap’s tourism economy, which has suffered significant pandemic losses, was also a priority.
The board agreed to allocate $80,000 over two years to Shuswap Tourism to support their restart efforts.
The funding grant will help reduce the impact these unexpected COVID-19 expenses will have on taxation rates to CSRD residents. Other uses for the remaining funds will be explored as part of the CSRD’s 2021 budget planning process.