Councillor proposes stimulus plan

·2 min read

Coun. Chak Au and the Richmond Community Coalition are proposing a voucher program that aims to inject up to $40 million into the city’s economy.

The proposal, which Au hopes to bring forward to city council, would see each of Richmond’s 78,000 households receive a $100 voucher, similar to a stored value credit card. The card could be used at any Richmond business.

“It will help local businesses, speed up economic recovery and save jobs,” says Au.

He says the $7.8 million to cover the cost of the program could come from a few city sources:

• $1.25 billion in reserve (including $528 million in cash and $824 million in investments);

• a portion of the $9 million received in provincial COVID-19 response funds; or

• deferring some costly projects, such as the $19.4 million Phoenix Net Loft renovation.

Au compares the city’s reserve funds to different kinds of bank accounts, with some funding allocated as “uncommitted reserves.”

“In the city right now we have cash and also the term deposits and the income bonds. Those uncommitted reserves are more flexible and the money in a way is sitting around. This would be the ‘savings account’ that we have, the money is sitting there but if there’s an emergency or something that you need, you can transfer the money to pay your bills,” says Au.

The pandemic response funds from the province were intended to help municipalities with pandemic response, so Au says remaining funds from that parcel would fit with this initiative.

During a Zoom call for members of the media Friday morning, several Richmond business owners spoke about the challenges their businesses have faced during the pandemic.

“There are days where I don’t know how long the restaurant will last,” says Michael Kha, owner of Pho Lan restaurant. “(But) we try to stay positive.”

The Richmond Community Coalition is hoping to gain feedback from a public survey. People can participate online.

Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel