The city will dramatically increase the amount of money it gives out to people working in the community helping those at greatest risk.
During financial planning deliberations last week, council decided they will quadruple the allocated budget for social grants, beginning in 2019.
“When we’re looking at $25,000 in social grants, that’s really not enough money to even get your feet wet or do anything,” said Coun. Larry Samson.
While the rest of council agreed, in principal, that they should be setting more money aside for requests from social programs and organizations, there was concern that they don’t really have a policy in place for who should be able to access that money or how they would go about applying for it.
“I feel quite strongly that without that policy in place, we are putting the cart before the horse,” said Coun. Colleen Evans. “I agree that there’s the potential to increase the social grant funding, but until we see clearly what the requirements are to apply for a social grant, what the parameters are, I think that’s the time to increase the funding.”
Chief Financial Officer Myriah Foort reminded council that city staff have been tasked with creating a new policy for how that money would be accessed, which Foort says should happen “early in the new year.”
So with that policy set to be put in place next year, Coun. Ron Kerr proposed that council begin setting aside more money beginning the year after.
“I think that if we have it in the budget, not for the coming year but the following year, it allows the next council to look at it and it gives direction that we’re looking at this seriously,” Kerr said.
“One of our strategic priorities is to care for the most vulnerable in our community,” agreed Mayor Andy Adams. “We had initially set up a modest amount of $25,000 to begin that process, and I certainly agree with Coun. Evans that we need to have a policy to administer how we’re going to do that, but that $25,000, as little as it is, has made a big difference to the organizations that have received a little bit of it.
“Whether we feel it’s our responsibility or not – the majority of the issues are a provincial responsibility – we’re in it. It’s our community and we have our responsibility.”
In the end, council voted in favour of increasing the social grant fund to $100,000 per year from the current $25,000 beginning in 2019.