The City of Yellowknife is devising a plan to spend $263,000 remaining from economic stimulus funding received during the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
In May 2021, city councillors approved a plan to spend federal “safe restart” funding worth $780,000 that was designed help Yellowknife’s economy emerge from the pandemic.
At the time, $230,000 was set aside to reduce business licence fees and provide local firms with other incentives, while another $230,000 covered waived or reduced permitting fees for property enhancements.
$65,000 went toward extending Somba K’e Park’s washroom hours, $80,000 was directed at city communications work, $80,000 supported policy and legislative development, and $95,000 was spent hiring summer students to “catch up on tasks delayed by Covid and enhance existing services.”
At a meeting of councillors on Tuesday this week, Mayor Rebecca Alty said that of the $460,000 directed at business help and property enhancement, $263,000 remained unspent.
Some of that money is still being pushed out. For example, the City of Yellowknife continues to offer a business services grant worth up to $5,000 per application.
At Tuesday’s meeting, economic development director Kerry Thistle made it sound like the city will work with businesses to turn any proposal it can into a grant.
“We really encourage businesses to reach out to us to discuss what they would like to do, so we can see how it can fit in under the Yellowknife business services grant,” Thistle told councillors, “or what they might be doing that we could cover.”
Examples given include help covering the cost of financial services, marketing or training.
Councillors are now asking the city to come up with a more detailed plan of how the remaining Covid-19 stimulus money will be spent.
“We need to look at what programs we want to continue to offer to expend the remainder of the funding,” Thistle acknowledged, stating the city will consult with the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce to see what else businesses might need.
Alty suggested that given businesses’ past concerns about public safety and social issues, some of the remaining money could be diverted to improve Yellowknife’s street outreach program. Alternatively, she said, money from the fund could cover the $27,000 cost of updating signs around the city, a part of Yellowknife’s wayfinding strategy that might otherwise wait months or years for internal funding to be found.
“We could really make a dent in the wayfinding strategy,” she stated, “just replacing some of the old signs or signs with wrong information.”
A plan is due to be drawn up this month and presented back to city council for approval, in what would be one of its last acts before October’s municipal election. Nominations for that election opened this week.