THUNDER BAY – The end of a grant funding program provided by the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board could force a number of regional organizations to look elsewhere for money.
The Community Social Reinvestment Program, which provided $562,000 to three dozen causes in 2019, was voted by the board earlier this month to discontinue at the end of the year.
The program’s origins date back to 2008, when it was funded by provincial dollars. The program was deemed to be no longer mandated by the former provincial government in 2016, which led to the board debating whether to continue offering the funding.
The board had earlier this year decided to continue the program in 2019, primarily using dollars in its levy stabilization reserve fund.
Lucy Kloosterhuis, the board chair and mayor of Oliver Paipoonge, said while the decision wasn’t unanimous, board members felt that some of the initiatives that had been receiving funding weren’t a DSSAB responsibility.
“We just felt that some of these programs such as snowshoe lessons and cooking lessons weren’t something that should fall under a DSSAB program,” Kloosterhuis said on Tuesday. “If there’s a school in Oliver Paipoonge that wants to have a lunch program or a breakfast program, they’re more than welcome to come to the local council and ask and request that money. Then it’s up to the local council, who is also going to have to speak to their own residents, as to if they approve it or not.”
“It’s being brought from a community or district board to a local board. These programs do not have to stop. It’s now just up to the local council if they continue or not.”
The program received funding requests totalling nearly $850,000, the demand far exceeding the $562,000 that was distributed. Agencies receiving allocations in 2019 included the Regional Food Distribution Association with $70,000, Shkoday Abinojiwak Obimiwedoon with $55,000, The Salvation Army with a combined total of nearly $53,000 and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Thunder Bay with a combined total of $26,000.
Our Kids Count executive director Gladys Berringer, whose organization received $21,880 despite seeking $57,000, said the loss of the funding envelope will have a huge impact on their programs, which reach more than 1,100 people.
“It’s going to really hurt families and the individuals who attend our programs, and of course the kids,” Berringer said, adding the organization had also received a reduced allocation from The United Way. “The money that we receive provides a lot of the food for our programs and we won’t be able to do that.”
Food security initiatives, which include food banks, nutrition programs, community kitchens, school feeding programs and soup vans, accounted for 66 per cent of the funding. Kloosterhuis said those food security programs can still apply for DSSAB dollars through the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative, which is provincially funded.
Berringer said the organization has also taken on the responsibility of running the Blucher, Picton and Windsor Community Action Group, which had received $6,300 through the program.
“Without the funding that normally comes in from them for that site, I’m not quite sure what we’ll be able to do in January. We may be looking at having to close doors,” Berringer said.
The funded initiatives are spread across the district, including Thunder Bay and surrounding area, Greenstone, Marathon, Nipigon, Schreiber, Terrace Bay, Armstrong and Manitouwadge.
Coun. Andrew Foulds (Current River), a member of the social services board, at Monday night’s Thunder Bay city council meeting raised the issue and predicted those groups might bring forward increased funding requests.
“I suspect, for example, The United Way is going to get a lot more asks. I suspect that our asks in that Community Culture and Youth program envelope here is going to get more asks,” Foulds said. “They’re being squeezed right now.”
“I think we’re going to see the effects of this in this chamber and perhaps we will have some very difficult decisions to make in the next eight months, particularly if we want to fund these programs.”