Town Hall in Smithers. For this week’s poll, we want to know if you’d support one (or more) town councillors in a hypothetical mayoral bid. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Town Hall in Smithers. For this week’s poll, we want to know if you’d support one (or more) town councillors in a hypothetical mayoral bid. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Smithers to receive $1.6 million in COVID relief from Province

Town undecided on how to spend no-strings-attached cash, report expect by council from staff

Smithers will be getting $1.6 million in COVID-19 relief from the province.

The funding is coming from the recently announced $425 million Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s COVID-19 Safe Restart Grants for Local Governments fund.

Newly sworn-in mayor of Smithers Gladys Atrill said it is too soon to know how the Town will spend the money, but she is expecting a report from Town staff that will be discussed at an upcoming council meeting.

“I think the town is in pretty good shape,” she said. “If that is the case, we might have an opportunity to see where it will do the most good, but, but it’s great to get an infusion of cash.”

This award can be used for addressing revenue shortfalls, facility reopening and operating costs, emergency planning and response costs, bylaw enforcement and protective services such as fire protection and police, computer and other technology costs, services for vulnerable persons in the community and other related costs.

Atrill was also pleased at the basically no-strings-attached nature of the funding.

“I think it was the governments intention to make it as broad as possible so municipalities can use it where we need it,” she said.

The funding is part of government’s $540 million funding plan for local governments that has been further divided into three streams. The $15 million stream for “Development Services” and the $100 million for “Strengthening Communities” require local governments to apply for the funding. However, the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grants for Local Governments comes directly to the local governments to help recover their operations from any COVID-19 impact.

Other municipalities in the region to receive the grant are Telkwa, $602,000; Hazelton, $268,000; New Hazelton, $357,000; Granisle, $264,000; District of Houston, $1.07 million; Terrace, $2.7 million; Kitimat, $2.2 million; Prince Rupert, $2.8 million; Burns Lake, $732,000; and Stewart $366,000.

The ministry decided the funding for the municipalities based on a formula involving two factors, a flat funding of $169,000 and an adjusted per capita amount based on the population to ensure larger municipalities receive more money than smaller ones but the smaller ones receive a higher per capita funding as they often lack a diverse tax base to restart operations.

The Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) is one of 27 regional districts also receiving this grant funding and will be getting $583,000.

The ministry decided the funding for regional districts based on a formula based on three factors, a flat funding amount of $300,000 to each regional district and two additional components to take into consideration the overall population and the rural population in each.

“We believe this funding will contribute to the long-term recovery of local governments who are both critical service providers and crucial drivers in the British Columbia economy,” wrote Deputy Minister Kaye Krishna in the letters addressed to the municipalities.

With files from Rod Link and Thom Barker