Town councillors on relief funds: 'Don't reward bad management'

·3 min read

The Town of Grand Bay-Westfield will not receive any COVID-19 safe restart funding.

It's because the town ended up having a net surplus when it came to COVID-19 spending. But some councillors think it's not fair that bad management apparently gets rewarded. The discussion was held at the town's Dec. 14 regular council meeting.

"Any municipalities that managed the losses better ... aren't going to get any dollars. Whereas ones who didn't handle it as sufficiently or ran a deficit are going to get big payouts," said Coun. Ryan Snodgrass.

He said it's "almost ridiculous" that New Brunswick is distributing the funds on a net losses model first, when in other provinces it's being allotted based on tax bases and tax assessments.

"Don't want to reward bad management," agreed Coun. Steve Evans.

Municipalities that ended up net-neutral or at a net surplus throughout the pandemic are set to get less money overall, Snodgrass said, even including the per capita portion of federal COVID-19 relief funding.

The Safe Restart Agreement is a COVID-19 recovery fund deal signed with the federal government earlier this year. The province received $41.6 million from the federal government – the COVID-19 safe restart agreement funds – to help municipalities offset losses. The first round of funding is distributed based on need as measured by net financial losses, and the second round will be allocated on a per capita basis.

The total additional costs of the COVID-19 pandemic for the Town of Grand Bay-Westfield was calculated to be $32,055.70. This was made up of extra volunteer firefighter hours, overage for seasonal labour and material/contractors, as stated in a town report.

Their total savings added up to be $63,418. The town saved money on casual workers, Unity Park, Sunday events, litter cleanup and Canada Day events.

In total, the town saved $31,362.

John Enns-Wind, the town CAO, said each municipality's need is not the same, and if all of New Brunswick's safe restart funds were allotted based on per capita, then it may have been at another community's expense.

He said on one hand, it's a good thing the town doesn't need to request the part of the COVID-19 safe restart funds based on financial impact.

"It speaks to the size of the municipality and shows how we're able to adapt to changing circumstances."

Still, he said even though the town saved money, it was at the cost of social interaction and community events. He said all the town's summer events were cancelled.

More municipal COVID-19 relief funding will be announced in early January and it will be available on a per capita basis, said Daniel Allain, New Brunswick's minister of local government and local governance reform, in a previous interview with the Telegraph-Journal.

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. L'initiative de journalisme local est financée par le gouvernement du Canada.

Caitlin Dutt, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal