Merritt hopes to hire five community ambassadors this summer by applying for funding through the Canada Summer Jobs Grant.
“In the past we’ve applied for three to four students,” said Will George, Economic Development, Communications and Tourism Manager for the City of Merritt.
“This year we’d like to apply for five students. In the past they’ve been roaming tourism ambassadors working out of the kiosk, but who knows what the summer’s going to look like with visitors. So, we’ve talked with the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and they’ve expressed interest in having the community ambassadors based out of there as well as the mobile kiosk.”
Community Ambassadors will support tourism initiatives, downtown revitalization programs, and maintain an inventory of community assets for the City of Merritt GIS System. They will also be expected to support local non-profits and businesses, and assist with COVID-safe events.
Typically, ambassadors, which have been active in Merritt since 2016, are local students. However, this year being a student is not a requirement.
“They no longer have to be students, that’s the other change,” said George.
“The requirements have loosened up.”
There were no Ambassadors in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there were three in 2019.
The grant would provide a 75% wage subsidy up to minimum wage. This would amount to $43,860 for five positions, with the City contributing the remaining $25,000 which would be allocated from the annual Destination BC Grant and local City tourism dollars.
Councillor Mike Bhangu questioned whether the program could be expanded beyond the summer months.
“Does the government have a winter student program, because they do have that break?” Bhangu queried.
“Ask some questions, if possible, perhaps we can use those folks for snow removal.”
“This grant has changed due to COVID… so actually you can start the students early. I believe until Feb. 2022, unless I’m wrong, so it can go all the way through,” George said.
“The only barrier for that is that the city would have to chip in more funding if we wanted them to be carried past the summer.”
City CAO Sean Smith also noted that the Ambassadors would not be unionized workers, which would make employing them for snow removal more difficult.
Mayor and Council voted unanimously to direct staff to apply for the grant funding for five Community Ambassadors by the deadline of Jan. 29.
Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald