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Grant money props up ailing non-profits but surplus funds still pending

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
August 5th, 2021

Operating losses due to COVID-19 have impacted several city non-profit organizations to the tune of nearly $190,000.

Nine Kootenay organizations have incurred operating losses of $196,613 since the beginning of the pandemic, including the Nelson Civic Theatre Society at $54,074, Glacier Gymnastics with $34,025 and Nelson Curling Club with $34,651.

But the province recently disbursed a Covid Recovery Grant Program — vetted through the city locally — helping to offset some of the debilitating impacts of restrictions imposed by management of the pandemic.

In all, nine city non-profit organizations received provincial aid — $95,667 in total — but were only eligible to receive a maximum of $15,000 out the total $300,000 allocated to Nelson.

A further nine non-profit organizations did not receive money and were deemed ineligible since they were operating at a surplus or financials were not available.

The leftover funds concerned Coun. Keith Page who wondered what would happen to the money.

“Do we, can we, should we consider topping some of these organizations out?” he said about the nine that applied and did not receive any money.

City chief financial officer Colin McClure said handing over any additional funding to them was risky because it fell outside of the provincial program guidelines.

“We saw a pattern … in certain sectors there seemed to be a lot of grants available for some groups but not for others, that’s really why you are kind of seeing the (operating loss) effect,” he said.

There was a question by city staff that, since a surplus resulted from the grant program, should council look at a different model for delivery of the money.

McClure said the city could look at a second round of applications since the funds don’t disappear. It could also be used in the future for the groups that are in trouble again, he added.

“A second round, I would be comfortable with that,” Page stated.

“We still, I think, will have to have a piece of this pie that is positioned to support more recovery of those organizations and not simply facing toward the future because we are going to see at least a few more problems crop up within our community because of the stress.”

Although the recommendations to fund the nine organizations operating at a loss was approved, no final word was handed down on the remaining grant funding.

One hit wonder

The grant program — not ongoing but a one-time source of funds — was created by the province to help non-profit organizations who were, and continue to be, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“More specifically, the grant program seeks to support organizations who saw a decline in revenue as a result of lost participant fees, cancelled community programs and other events,” noted a city staff report to council.

The money was expected to help the organizations adapt to permanent changes as a result of the pandemic and build a new plan for the future.

Under the guidelines set out by the province, city staff reviewed the applications and the final list of recommendations was approved by city council.

Further afield

In addition to the grant program, a total of 22 Kootenay sport organizations received funding to help them recover from the pandemic and welcome a safe return to play.

Of the 22, only one was based in Nelson — the Kootenay Swim Club — and one further afield, the Castlegar Hockey Society.

The Local Sport Relief Fund provides grants of up to $7,500 to non-profit sports organizations to assist with expenses such as insurance, administrative costs, rent, storage costs and equipment essential to providing sports programs.

“Local sports organizations and the people that work and play in them have done their part to protect our communities from COVID-19, and now it’s time to get back to the rink, gym and field,” said Katrine Conroy, MLA for Kootenay West, in a press release.

This is the second allocation of funds for local sport organizations thanks to additional financial support provided by the Government of Canada. In this round, the Province is disbursing more than $1 million in grants to 214 organizations throughout B.C.

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