City of Winnipeg proposes $600K for COVID-19 wellness fund, recreation spending boost
Preliminary 2021 budget includes increased spending for local libraries, recreational facilities
The City of Winnipeg has proposed a $600,000 fund in its preliminary 2021 budget to support citizens' physical, mental and emotional health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Winnipeg Wellness Fund would give each city councillor's ward $40,000 to spend on community-led initiatives focused on mental health and allowing residents to get out safely during the winter.
"We can all use little bit more happy in our day and the Winnipeg Wellness Fund is a great way to support community wellness projects that give us some happiness this winter," Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) said in a news release.
"There are many creative people in Winnipeg and this fund supports their brilliant ideas that put a smile on neighbours faces during this winter."
The fund would be available to businesses, schools, community centres, non-profits and various other organizations and associations, the release says.
To be eligible for funding, the initiatives have to comply with Manitoba public health orders. The city says eligible projects could include skating trails, snow or ice sculpture contests, additional lighting for street or walking path lighting, school decorations, or funding to support good deeds for seniors.
Money will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis, the city says. An online application will be made available, with an application deadline of Feb. 28, 2021. Any funding granted will have to be used by April 30, 2021.
Funding will be reviewed and approved by each ward's city councillor.
Library, rec facility funding increase
The city also committed to increased spending for local libraries and recreational facilities in its preliminary 2021 budget, and designated $50 million of provincial funding over the next three years for improving some of those facilities.
That's a shift from a year ago, when the multi-year budget process initially included recommendations to shut down some facilities, including several local libraries — though public outcry swayed council to keep them open.
"Recreation facilities and libraries are essential amenities that support Winnipeg families," said Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), who chairs the city's protection, community services and parks committee, in a news release.
"These investments support inclusion, access, recreation, and cultural destinations like our libraries. Listening to Winnipeggers, we know their overarching budget priorities are for investment in recreational and library facilities."
To maintain core services and programming, the annual operating budget of the community services department will increase from $106.9 million in 2020 to $112 million in 2023.
The city will receive a total of $225 million in provincial capital funding over the next three years. Of that, $50 million will be spent on the city's recreation and library investment strategy, which primarily focuses on recreation spending in "high need areas" of Winnipeg, the release said.
Some of the planned spending includes:
- $15 million for critical building renewal and repairs at indoor pools across the city, including the Pan Am, Cindy Klassen, Seven Oaks, and St. James Assiniboia Centennial pools.
- $5.9 million to redevelop the Old Ex arena and adjacent site improvements.
- $5.5 million for upgrades to the Millennium, St. James, and Westwood libraries.
- $1.8 million for the renewal of the Turtle Island Recreation Centre on King Street.