Communities across B.C. will get an additional $10 million in COVID safe restart grants, the provincial government announced Monday, March 22.
The extra money, to be split among the province’s 27 regional districts, will supplement last November’s $540 million in provincial and federal restart grants to local governments, according to BC Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne.
The funding bump comes roughly a month after Osborne said she’d heard feedback from regional directors and heads of local governments she said were struggling with economic recovery post-COVID.
“Literally, the check is in the mail and the funds are on their way,” Osborne told The Grand Forks Gazette Monday, March 22.
The $10 million will be divided between regional districts according to a population-based formula which Osborne said afforded special attention to rural communities. “We know that services are more expensive to provide in rural areas,” she noted.
The funds are being made available through equal contributions by Ottawa and Victoria, she explained.
Local governments are meanwhile eligible for $100 million in provincial grants toward strengthening community services for vulnerable populations, especially those experiencing homelessness, she added. The grant program is being run by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), which Osborne said is accepting grant applications until April 16.
Program funds can be used to bolster a wide variety of services, including the expansion of homeless shelters and other protective outreach programs.
Osborne said she had seen UBCM director Grace McGregor’s open letter to BC government officials, including Minister Osborne, asking to see a breakdown of the formula the province first used to divvy up COVID restart grants. Osborne said she would follow up with her staff about responding to McGregor’s letter.