Community groups plan application for pandemic recovery funding

Town of Minto agrees to provide loan if needed

MINTO – The Town of Minto has agreed to provide interim funding, if needed, if an application for a grant to help community organizations recover from the COVID-19 pandemic is successful.

“Many of our groups are having trouble in this post-COVID environment, primarily with volunteers and audiences and, I think, just volunteer burnout,” treasurer Gordon Duff told Minto council on Feb. 7.

“As we know it’s a different world. You have to try and get back your volunteers and your audiences and everything.”

Duff explained the federal government recently launched the Community Services Recovery Fund (CSRF), which is open to applications from community groups, but not municipalities.

“Pretty much all our groups have no paid staff – they’re purely volunteers – and they’re just in survival mode,” said Duff.

“We’ve often thought what we need is a dedicated person to help many of our groups kind of revitalize.”

However, a staff report prepared by Duff and director of economic and community development Belinda Wick-Graham points notes that given the town’s operating budget constraints, “it is not possible to move forward with such a position at this time.”

In addition, the report states, “Most of our organizations are operated in a lean manner” and groups do not, individually or collectively,  “have the money to fund such a position.”

Duff said the Minto Arts Council has agreed to be the lead agency on a grant application through the CSRF’s Investing in People stream.

If successful, the grant could be used to hire an individual on a one-year contact to help community groups recruit and retain volunteers, grow their audiences and event attendance, and increase revenues to help sustain the organizations.

The report points out the Minto Cultural Roundtable has indicated support for the initiative and members have agreed to provide letters of support for the application.

Duff explained that if a grant is approved the arts council does not have the money to carry the project until funds are disbursed and the cultural roundtable has requested the town provide a loan to be repaid when grant funds arrive.

The staff report indicates the town has provided similar advances to other community groups in the past.

Through the CSRF, the federal government is providing $400 million across Canada to support community service organizations to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

The program has three streams: Investing in People, Investing in Systems and Processes, and Investing in Program and Service Innovation and Redesign.

“It’s kind of interesting that the federal government has recognized this problem is occurring all across Canada and this sector is one of the hard-hit ones …” Duff said.

“Because how do you get people away from their couch and watching Netflix? … It’s a different world.”

Council received the staff report and agreed, if the grant application is successful, to lend the Minto Arts Council up to $80,000 to fund expenses eligible under the program.

The loan will be repayable upon receipt of the full amount of the approved grant.