Kelowna city council has allocated nearly $8 million in provincial grant funds to help address the financial turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday (Nov. 23), council approved the allocation of the $7.9-million COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant to support both losses this year and to be applied to the in-progress 2021 budget. The province is giving the cash to local governments to help deal with the increased operating costs and reduced revenues due to COVID-19, ensuring they can continue to provide necessary services.
The city is set to allocate $2.5 million to fund additional costs and revenue losses experienced throughout the year, including corporate preparedness planning and gaming revenues, as well as to support the Kelowna International Airport.
The remaining $5.4 million will be applied to the city’s preliminary 2021 budget, allowing the city some more flexibility amid further expected costs and loss of revenue. Council will deliberate the 2021 budget on Dec. 10, 2020.
Coun. Luke Stack said he is “appreciative and relieved the province has come through with these funds.” Councillors also noted that they were expecting a grant around the $5-million mark, and were pleasantly surprised to learn the true amount.
“To see it coming in where it is is a huge relief to us as a city and to the taxpayers of our city.”
Coun. Gail Given, however, was slightly less optimistic. While appreciative of the government grant, she noted the city’s significant losses through the COVID-19 pandemic, which she said this may not make up in full.
“I don’t think it should be viewed as a gift of a golden egg.”
She thanked city staff for their work in preparing the 2021 budget, mentioning she knows it’s “going to be a tight one.”
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