The Comox Valley Regional District has received a total of $1,125,000 from the province, which distributed about $415 million in COVID restart grants for local governments last fall. The money is to be used for operations impacted by the pandemic.
Last November, the district received $723,000, with $200,000 allocated to community support/emergency preparedness. Another $223,000 went to recreation facilities to offset revenue losses, $100,000 will help the Community Foundation promote food security and support vulnerable populations, and $100,000 will go to information technology resilience.
In March, the district received a further $402,000. In May, the board approved $40,000 to construct outdoor washrooms at the Black Creek Community Centre, Merville Community Hall and the Union Bay Community Club. Staff recommends further community hall investments in Royston, Baynes Sound, Puntledge North, and Denman and Hornby Islands, for a total of $200,000. Staff also recommends a further $100,000 for CVCF food security, $20,000 for Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Programs (NEPP), and $42,000 for self-service online tools.
Area C director Edwin Grieve and Area B director Arzeena Hamir agree the $20,000 is too small for the NEPP, but their views differ on food security.
“Very little ever trickles down into rural areas,” Grieve said at the Nov. 8 Electoral Area Services Committee meeting. “We’re always contributing to the municipal areas. I would say it’s not necessarily pandemic-related. If we can use that money when we talk about the food hub and the agricultural plan, we’re basically giving people a fishing rod, rather than continually giving them fish.”
Hamir notes the Black Creek Bread of Life Food Bank has seen a huge increase in need.
“I think they went from 100 people on a regular basis to over 500,” she said, noting the Courtenay-based Lush Valley Food Box program has been servicing rural areas. “I don’t think we can say this is just a Courtenay service, it’s certainly helping all of us.”
Area A director Daniel Arbour is not sure of the strategic role in terms of food bank activities.
“If we do it now (contribute $100,000), do we do it next year?” he said. “I think we’re past that spot in the COVID response.”
CAO Russell Dyson said the recommendations respond to the criteria of the BC Safe Restart Grant Program, which responds to input staff received from directors.
Hamir moved the recommendation to allocate the $402,000 to support the recommended initiatives, but it was not seconded. Grieve would like more clarity as to how the money will fit in with the restart concept.
Staff will report back back with more information at EASC next month.