(File photo)

COVID-19: Salmon Arm council turns travel money into emergency fund for non-profits

With conventions cancelled, city creates fund organizations can use to help vulnerable citizens

The coronavirus may be spreading money from Salmon Arm council to local charities and non-profits.

Due to the pandemic, funds in the Council Expenses account, which council members would normally use to attend conventions, are being reallocated.

The 2020 conventions of the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), to be held in Vernon and Toronto respectively, were cancelled, freeing up funds.

Following the example of the District of Sicamous, which has launched an Emergency Grant Fund for COVID-19 Community Support in that community, Salmon Arm council voted on April 27 to set up a $20,000 COVID-19 Emergency Grant Fund. It will be used to assist local groups helping vulnerable citizens during the pandemic by providing grants of up to $2,000 per application.

City staff told council the Council Expenses account contains $25,000, but it was recommended $5,000 be left intact.

Two staff members and two members of council will form a group to adjudicate the applications received. Coun. Chad Eliason suggested that Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond, who chairs the city’s Social Impact Advisory Committee, and Mayor Alan Harrison fill the roles.

Wallace Richmond said the city has been working with many other groups during this emergency. She said although there are funds at senior levels of government, the municipality is “the fastest-moving and closest to the ground.”

“So in the event of a true timed emergency this might be the very thing that can take a bad situation and prevent it from getting worse. We know there are bigger agencies with bigger budgets that can spend more money, but I think it would be prudent to have this in our tool kit to make sure we’re protecting our most vulnerable folks and making sure we’re able to have a rapid response…”

She used a coffee-tin analogy.

“I compare it to a coffee tin that you keep on top of the fridge in the event of an emergency. Not as a cookie jar for everyone to get an extra cookie. To me it’s a different approach from some granting streams we have and that’s the view I will take if it’s approved…

Read more: COVID-19 – Salmon Arm council makes tough decisions to address economic stress

Read more: Salmon Arm taxpayers to see deadline extension extended to September

Corporate Officer Erin Jackson had explained that on April 21, after the city fund was first discussed, the federal government announced a $350 million emergency community support fund which will alleviate some of the pressure on charities and non-profits who are engaged in delivering assistance to vulnerable citizens. She said charities and non-profits can also qualify for the emergency wage subsidy that has been made available, as well as the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program which provides a 75 per cent rent reduction to non-profits, charities and businesses, but only if they have temporarily halted operations or lost at least 70 per cent of their revenue.

Coun. Kevin Flynn suggested the city’s one-page application could ask organizations if they’re aware of the funds available at other levels of government.

Wallace-Richmond said all the organizations know about the funding, but she thinks a caveat could be that the non-profit is applying with the knowledge the funds cannot be supplied by senior levels of government.

Coun. Tim Lavery expressed approval of the “micro-grants.” He said Sicamous came up with a good idea that Salmon Arm is tweaking.

Wallace Richmond concluded: “We may not spend it all and that’s OK. It’s important to have that coffee can on the top of the fridge.”

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