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Richmond councillor questions where $9.3 million COVID-19 relief is going

Coun. Chak Au suggested this week $500,000 of provincial relief money be used to support needy families in Richmond.
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Richmond Coun. Chak Au

Richmond Coun. Chak Au is wondering how the city is using $9.3 million it received in provincial COVID-19 relief.

Au said he asked this question of city staff in March and was told information was coming, but council hasn’t received any report as of yet on how the money will be used nor have they been asked direction on how it should be used.

Au told the Richmond News he’d like to see the money used to help Richmond residents struggling due to the pandemic and not for operational things like new computers for the city or to hire more people.

Au said the fact there has been no report on how funding is being used was his motivation to suggest $500,000 be donated to the Richmond Christmas Fund so $100 vouchers, to be used at Richmond businesses, could be distributed to families in need.

This motion at Monday’s general-purposes committee meeting was rejected by the other eight members on Richmond council.

Some councillors balked at Au’s motion, for example, Coun. Andy Hobbs said it would take the “wind out of the sails” of Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives (RCRG), a volunteer-driven organization that oversees the Christmas fund.

The city had its largest surplus this year, compared to the last five years, Au pointed out, and isn’t struggling financially, but Richmond residents are feeling the effects of the pandemic.

The $9.3 million came from the provincial COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant for Local Governments, and it’s meant to help with increased operating costs and reduced revenues that are a result of the pandemic, explained Richmond city spokesperson Clay Adams.

“It was aimed at enabling governments to continue to deliver services where lower revenue might impact their capacity to do so,” he added.

This includes maintaining and re-opening facilities – previously revenue would have been used to cover these costs – and operating costs impacted by the pandemic, for example, better IT infrastructure to support increased online transactions, Adams explained.

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