Rural Dividend Not a Slam Dunk for Cash Strapped Small Communities
Quesnel, B.C.- It remains to be seen if Quesnel will benefit this year from the recently announced rural dividend. The Province is making $25 million a year over the next three years available to communities with populations under 25 thousand. Funding is available for projects that fall within the following categories:
- Community capacity building;
- Workforce development;
- Community and economic development; and
- Business sector development.
“It’s great that money has been made available” says Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson, but he has a couple of concerns with the funding program “Unfortunately, like all of these things, it requires us to have cash to participate, it really doesn’t address an issue that’s been raised with both the Federal and Provincial Governments in that you’re asking cash strapped communities to always have cash to take advantage of money they are willing to put on the table.”
He says it isn’t yet clear if the dollars from thus fund could be used to leverage dollars from other organizations, such as the Northern Development Initiative Trust.
The rural dividend program requires single applicants applying for up to $100 thousand dollars for a project to contribute at least 20% of the total project cost. “Trying to find that $10 thousand or $20 thousand dollars is not that easy when you are trying to make sure all of your core costs are being covered with a shrinking industrial tax base” says Simpson.
Partnerships involving more than one eligible applicant can apply for up to $500,000, and must contribute 40% of the total project cost.
Another issue is the fact the window for applications will only be open today through to the end of May and that may not be enough time for communities like Quesnel to submit an application says Simpson “Effectively, we’ve got a month and a half to get a project together. Well sometimes, given the nature of a project, it requires getting a consultant to help us with them or they require engineering assessments, so we’ve got a short time frame here to take advantage of these projects and if we don’t put in meaningful submissions, then you’re competing with other communities that may have more capacity for that.”
He says with more than 60 rural communities competing for dollars from this fund, it won’t take long for the $25 million to be spoken for.
“We are thankful some resources have been made available” says Simpson “We’re going to get together very quickly this week, so we’re going to look at some of the projects we’ve been planning to see which projects might be eligible and we can get them in ( application) in a meaningful way.”