Richmond city council is prepared to dole out $819,894 in community and social grants this year, which would represent — at least temporarily — a two per cent decrease from last year. This despite the city holding an estimated $1 million in a reserve account for such grants.
This year, the City of Richmond is allocating $586,095 to health, social and safety grants; $18,537 to child care grants; $105,508 for parks and community events grants; and $109,754 for arts and culture grants.
Last year, the city relinquished about $837,000 in grants, which are funded by the city’s share of gaming revenues from River Rock Casino and Resort.
While most grants went up about two per cent this year, the overall decline in funding from last year came with a significant decrease in child care grants. Last year, the city issued $69,888 in child care grants, while this year it only handed out $18,536. Staff note another $41,000 has yet to be allocated.
In total, the city did not issue about $489,000 worth of grants that were requested among the organizations this year (for example, the Sharing Farm Society requested $30,000 but was only allocated $18,000).
Last year, the city devised a new policy that would increase the total amount of money available for social and community grants; however, instead of doling out that extra cash (about half a million dollars), staff says it will be put in a reserve account.
The same thing happened last year when staff deposited $548,669 in excess gaming funds into the “Grant Provision account.”
What is to happen to the excess funds from gaming revenues has yet to be determined, and it’s unclear why requests for money are being left on the table. In January 2016, a staff report stated that “staff will be bringing forward a report with recommendations for these remaining funds later in Quarter 1.”
No report came forward, however, and many groups have been left to find funds elsewhere.
The Women’s Resource Centre was a focus of debate as to who should fund it. Typically, social services fall under the mandate of the provincial government, but many such organizations in Richmond report underfunding as the city, and thus their service demand, grows.
Councillors have debated the merits of the city stepping in to fund such organizations in the wake of dwindling provincial funding.
Couns. Chak Au and Ken Johnston advocated to double social and community grants during the 2014 election. The new policy, implemented in 2016, states that 15 per cent of gaming revenues will be used for grants. With the gaming revenue budget set at $18 million, this policy effectively increased social and community grant money by 70 per cent.