By Collin Gallant on May 25, 2017.
City councillors are lauding a provincial government decision to keep additional dollars for community support programs in the budget.
Last year, the city and local groups scrambled to allocate a 10 per cent increase to Family and Community Support Service grants in the NDP’s first full-year budget.
That was billed as a “one-time” boost to help local agencies operate and expand supports during the height of the economic recession.
On Wednesday, the city’s public services committee heard the increase has carried over to the new two-year program budget.
More than $1.3 million is earmarked for things like low-income supports, family counselling, food security and a host of other community and youth programs.
“We’ve never had so much before,” said Sheila Donner, head of the city’s social development and advisory board, which evaluates proposals from social service groups.
“We didn’t have to turn anyone down, and they all met our criteria.”
In years past, FCSS discussions usually revolved around how many applications were turned down and the growing gap between requests and available funding.
On Wednesday, the committee accepted recommendations to apportion $88,000 in one-time grants to 10 local groups for special projects. Another $569,000 is recommended for 18-month projects set to begin next month and run to the end of 2018.
Another $670,000 in contract funding for 2018 and 2019 will come forward in June.
“We haven’t seen this much money all at one time,” said committee chair Coun. Julie Friesen, who, two years ago, unsuccessfully lobbied council to put more city money toward the funding gap.
Family and Community Support Service grants are a provincial program that involves some matching money from cities, which then distribute cash based on local needs.
In early 2015, the previous government rescinded a separate $104,000 grant that Medicine Hat had used to top up FCSS awards.
In 2016 however, the government instead boosted FCSS funding by 10 per cent.
“It really made a lot of difference in the community. The economic downturn was at its height. It brought a lot of value to the people in our community … We’re still coming out of (the downturn), and people are still struggling and in need.”
Recommendations are largely based on collaboration between community agencies, and new programs looking for initial funding while seeking out other community support.
Among the proposals for 18-month programs, $124,200 would go to the Medicine Hat Youth Action Society to accommodate increased attendance. Another $101,600 is for a public school district program to attend to troubled youth with a variety of other partner agencies.
The Canadian Mental Health Association will receive $90,900 to hire a conference co-ordinator and stage the “Headstrong Summitt” aimed at youth well-being this fall. That event is also set to receive a one-time grant of $15,200.
The Thrive initiative is earmarked to receive $75,000 toward hiring a full-time executive director to help co-ordinate a variety of groups in service delivery areas and grants.
Additional awards are for Big Brothers and Big Sisters ($51,900), the North Flats Neighbourhood Association children’s summer programs ($48,100), the Medicine Hat Pride Association ($37,500), the Grasslands Naturalists ($25,000), and the local Schizophrenia Society of Alberta ($14,600).
Among one-time project funding, a dual proposal by the YMCA and CMHA to fund a volunteer co-ordinator position ($25,800). The continuation of last year’s successful Children’s Guide to the City book ($11,000), Women’s Shelter ($10,000), food bank ($9,100), Canadian Red Cross ($7,200) are also in line for program funding. Smaller amounts are earmarked for the Pride Association, Early Childhood Coalition and public library.
Two-year service provision contracts were on Wednesday’s agenda but were tabled for two weeks due to a quorum issue.
Those grants would not be paid until Jan. 1, 2018.
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