Saanich has allocated its $7.4 million Safe Restart Grant to recoup the losses incurred by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)

Saanich has allocated its $7.4 million Safe Restart Grant to recoup the losses incurred by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)

Saanich can revisit shelved programs with $7.4 million restart grant covering shortfalls

Grant helps Saanich recoup COVID-19 financial losses

A grant of more than $7 million will offset the costs Saanich has incurred as a result of the pandemic and allow the municipality to reconsider funding requests shelved during the 2020 budget deliberations.

In early November, the province allocated $425 million to municipalities across B.C. under the federal Safe Restart Agreement for the rehabilitation of local governments. The grants issued to south Island communities included $3.45 million for Central Saanich, $6.5 million for Victoria, $2.75 million for Sidney, $4.8 million for Langford and Saanich, the largest municipality in the region, received $7.4 million.

READ ALSO: North Saanich considers supporting charities with COVID-19 grant

Mayor Fred Haynes calls the funding “a true moment to celebrate” amid the negative impacts of the pandemic.

Safe Restart Grants are to be used to cover shortfalls due to COVID-19 including the cost of emergency pandemic planning including compensation for revenue loss from closed facilities, bylaw enforcement, technology to improve virtual communications, services for vulnerable residents, and restart operations.

The amount each municipality received was based on factors including population size, Haynes said.

READ ALSO: Saanich council trims property tax increase to 2.4 per cent amid COVID-19 pandemic

During a Dec. 7 meeting, Director of Finance Valla Tinney outlined in a report how the district’s $7.4 million grant would be allocated.

For 2020, Saanich will apply the grant to cover an estimated $3.9 million in losses resulting from the pandemic. Haynes noted specific revenue loss of $1.2 million from recreation centres being closed, $1 million from reduced water utilities and $750,000 from ongoing operational costs related to the COVID-19 response. Saanich also expects to face an estimated $3 million in losses in 2021 which will be covered by the grant funds.

READ ALSO: Sooke gets $2.9 million for COVID-19 economic recovery

Per the report, nearly $507,000 may be leftover in 2022 and these funds would be returned to the province, Haynes said.

With the Safe Restart funds in place, Saanich will reconsider high-priority initiatives that did not receive funding during the 2020 budget deliberations.

Haynes is pleased that council will be able to “have another good look” at the various projects that were shelved for the year.

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