More than half of a provincial grant provided to the District of Houston to help make up for costs or lost revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic has been allocated in the 2021 budget.
Called the Safe Restart Grant, $1.066 million was sent to the District by the provincial government last year as costs related to the pandemic began to mount.
Most affected within the District was the leisure services center and other recreation facilities either closed outright at the beginning of the pandemic or re-opened but under strict safety protocols restricting the number of patrons at any one time.
Of the $592,400 being assigned by council this year to make up for pandemic losses and costs, $198,400 is going to cover recreation revenue losses.
A further $67,400 is being spent to cover increased cleaning costs at the arena and $25,000 is to be spent on personal protective equipment for the arena, leisure facility and at parks.
Should any District employees contract COVID-19 and then be absent from work, requiring someone else to fill in, $87,000 has been assigned to cover that cost.
And $15,000 is to be spent on personal protective equipment for public works, the fire department and office employees.
Restrictions on gatherings affected District of Houston council and other District meetings from the very beginning with participation options very limited.
Using up to $99,600 from the restart grant, council has approved the purchase and installation of sufficient equipment and upgrades to allow it to webcast meetings and other events. The equipment package includes cameras, microphones and video display terminals.
And $100,000 has been set aside for community groups incurring their own losses and expenses arising from the pandemic.
There is no maximum amount that can be applied for and applications are welcome at any time with each application being decided by council. While there are no set criteria, groups and organizations do have to serve a vulnerable population and their efforts must have a significant community impact.
So far three applications have been submitted and accepted — Silverthorne Elementary is getting $5,000 to cover a deficit this spring in its breakfast and lunch meal program and to provide a start up boost when school resumes in the fall, Houston Link to Learning is getting $10,000 to help finance its community garden program and Branch 249 of the Royal Canadian Legion received $5,400 to cover extra costs tied to its shuttle service.
With those three grant approvals, $79,600 remains available from the original $100,000 allocation.