Bruce County council commends Westario on LEAP funding

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Editor's note: This was first published on Sept. 10, 2021. This version corrects the amount of money that Westario Power Inc. is required to flow into Bruce County's Low-Income Energy Assistance Program ($2,000 or 0.12 per cent of distribution revenue, whichever is greater).

BRUCE COUNTY – With the pandemic showing no sign of disappearing anytime soon, and the financial hardships it has caused continuing, programs to help low-income households are welcome.

One such program is administered by Bruce County on behalf of Westario Power Inc.

At their Sept. 2 meeting, county council members got an update on the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP).

“This is good news,” said Christine MacDonald, director of human services.

Westario is required to flow a minimum of $2,000 or 0.12 per cent of distribution revenue, whichever is greater. In the past, Westario has exceeded the base requirement and provided $25,000 in funding for the program. Westario has recently confirmed that they will be providing an additional $15,593 for a total of $40,593 in 2021. This will allow for the flow of additional low-income energy assistance for qualifying households. Bruce County receives a fee for administering the program.

County Coun. Bob Buckle, mayor of South Bruce, said, “We really appreciate them putting this money forward.”

Buckle also commented favourably on another report presented at the Sept. 2 meeting.

Staff recommended a bylaw be introduced authorizing the execution of a purchase of service agreement between the county and South Bruce, for the municipality to operate a before- and after-school authorized recreational and skill building program.

The program will operate at Sacred Heart School in Teeswater, beginning this fall.

“The public is quite enthused about this,” said Buckle.

It is a Ministry of Education requirement that municipal service system managers have purchase of service agreements in place with all child care centres where subsidized child care is provided.

Bruce County currently has purchase of service agreements with 19 licensed child care operators who provide care in 38 site locations. Licensed child care centre capacity in Bruce County is currently at 1,925 spaces, an increase of 277 spaces as compared to data outlined in the Bruce County’s 2019-2024 Child Care and Early Years’ Service System Plan.

County budget amended

An announcement was made at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in August that the county is receiving additional funding through two programs.

The county’s 2021 budget will be amended to reflect the additional revenue.

Bruce County will be receiving an additional $72,000 in COCHI funding from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

COCHI represents a reinvestment of the federal funding that has been declining under the Canada-Ontario Social Housing Agreement. The objective of COCHI is to begin to stabilize the supply of community housing through repairs, renovations and operating support.

The budget will also be amended to reflect new funding through the province’s Social Service Relief Fund (SSRF) Phase 4 allocation.

At AMO, Premier Doug Ford announced $296.4 million in new funding to help protect the health and safety of the province’s most vulnerable people. The funds are being made available as part of a fourth and final phase of funding under SSRF.

The additional SSRF funding supports operating and capital expenses to mitigate the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people who are homeless.

Like the initial SSRF phase 1, 2 and 3 funding, phase 4 will flow through the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI). Bruce County is eligible to receive $978,500 for 2021-22.

SSRF phase 4 funding is aimed at mitigating the ongoing risk for vulnerable people, especially in congregate care settings; encouraging longer-term housing-based solutions to homelessness after COVID-19; enhancing rent assistance to households in rent arrears due to COVID-19; and ensure an orderly wind-down of SSRF funded supports prior to when the program expires at the end of March 2022.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

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