The kindness meter stands outside City Hall. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

The kindness meter stands outside City Hall. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

Penticton councillor questions why COVID restart funds haven’t been spent

‘Businesses and families hanging on by their fingernails’: Judy Sentes

Penticton city councillor Judy Sentes questioned what was happening with the more than $4 million of COVID restart funds the city was given last year.

Sentes asked the question through a notice of motion to direct staff to explain how much funds are remaining and what will be done with the money.

“Businesses and families are hanging on by their fingernails and from what I understand the COVID recovery funds have not been spent and are sitting in the bank,” said Sentes at the Tuesday meeting.

“That’s not what COVID-19 restart funds are for. We created a task force for this and we have not done the suggestions that have come out of that,” she added.

In the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the city and all municipalities and towns across B.C. were allocated COVID restart funding to help recover losses.

The city was given $4.7 million.

City general manager of finance Jim Bauer said the city continues to see sustained losses as the pandemic stretches on. “There have been revenue losses and increased costs,” said Bauer.

The city used $1 million in 2020 that went into general revenue and a further $1.3 million is expected to be placed in the 2021 budget, he said.

The rest will stay in the bank because we are still going through the pandemic, said Bauer.

Coun. Katie Robinson said having money sitting in the bank is a good thing.

“We don’t know how long COVID is going to go on,” said Robinson. “We are paying a hefty price to have our council meetings at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre when a perfectly good city chambers is just sitting there [because of social distancing needs].”

Robinson suggested that if the pandemic carries on past December, they should go back to virtual meetings to save money on booking the PTCC.

Every meeting held at the PTCC costs $5,000.

COVID-19 relief funds are being used to pay for it.

READ MORE: Council to continue meeting at Penticton Trade and Convention Centre

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