The City of Duncan has turned down another application for $10,000 in funding from the city’s COVID-19 grant program, the ninth rejection since the program began last year.
The Cowichan Family Life Association, which offers affordable counselling for those with mental health issues in the Cowichan Valley, had applied for funding from the program to help pay for its new volunteer counselling program, which is focused on young adults.
The CFLA had applied for funding from the program before for another initiative, but was rejected.
Madelaine MacLeod, the CFL’s executive director, told council at its meeting on Oct. 4 that since the pandemic began in March, 2020, the CFLA has experienced a huge rise in requests for its services to help cope with increasing anxiety, stress, depression, isolation and other negative issues impacting people, and is now struggling to keep up with its wait list for counselling.
She said the new program is intended for those who don’t have access to extended medical plans or who can’t afford private counselling services.
“We believe we have met all the ‘must’ criteria for this application, and the only ‘must not’ criteria that our application doesn’t fit is that the funds can’t pay [the salaries of existing staff],” MacLeod said.
“Outside of rent and miscellaneous office expenses, this is the only expense we have.”
The city’s COVID-19 grant program, which began at the beginning of the pandemic, is intended to encourage creative thinking by local organizations to develop programs and concepts that will support Duncan businesses and residents affected by the pandemic, with a $10,000 cap for each application.
So far, there have been 13 applications for funding, but just four have been approved by council to date.
The applications that were denied were largely considered by council to not fit the criteria of the program, or didn’t directly benefit the people or businesses in the city.
Coun. Tom Duncan said at the meeting on Oct. 4 that while he understands there are mental-health issues in the community, the CFLA application doesn’t fit the criteria of the program.
“The application can’t be used to pay existing staff salaries,” he said.
“As well, the criteria states that funding shouldn’t go to programs that duplicate the mandate of an existing program, and Island Health and the province are responsible for mental health issues.”
Coun. Stacy Middlemiss said she sees a lot of people suffering in the community and if CFLA’s application did fit the criteria, it would be beneficial.
“There’s so many people falling through the cracks right now and not enough people are trained to help deal with it,” she said.
“The CFLA has been in business a long time and it is a responsible and knowledgeable organization. Maybe they could shift the numbers around in their application to deal with the salaries problem.”
Coun. Bob Brooke said council is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
“It doesn’t fit the criteria but, that being said, I haven’t seen anything more needed and deserving in my years on council,” he said.
Coun. Jenni Capps said it’s sad that some issues are not being addressed by senior levels of government which are responsible for them.
“Unfortunately, while I do think much of this application is in line with the criteria, the paying of salaries is not,” she said.
“If we deny this application, and if the CFLA feel there is any other way for the city to help them, like reapplying for a COVID-19 grant if another program is a fit, or for another grant when we’re doling out grants-in-aid applications, maybe we can help them then.”