Ontario municipalities battling the coronavirus pandemic will get a new line of financial support from senior governments through the $1.05-billion COVID-19 resilience infrastructure stream announced last week.
The funding is coming jointly from the provincial and federal governments under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP).
In total, $7,948,041 will be coming to Waterloo Region, with Woolwich Township receiving $279,747 and Wellesley Township earmarked for $100,000.
Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris says the funding is being accelerated because municipalities need the help now, available for shovel-ready projects that may already be on the books. The new iteration of the ICIP funding is not application-based like previous versions which saw more than $10 billion in applications submitted for $1 billion in available funding.
Instead, the new program is allocation-based, but municipalities will still have to submit an application to let the government know what they intend to do with the funds.
“What we’ve done to make it a little bit more equitable is actually change it to an allocation-based program. So, instead of everybody fighting for one pot of money what we’re doing now is saying ‘OK, Woolwich Township, you’ve got $279,747 available, what would you like that money to be used for?’ The municipalities will still have to put an application in, obviously we need to do our due diligence and make sure that they’re using the money for infrastructure needs that fit the criteria that’s set out by both us and the federal government,” said Harris.
Eligible projects fall under four main categories, including community, health, recreation and education renovations; COVID-19 response infrastructure; active transportation; and disaster mitigation, adaption, or remediation.
That can include undertaking such as retrofits and repairs for municipal or provincial buildings as well as health and education infrastructure. Active and passive transportation infrastructure such as trails, foot bridges and bike paths, along with revitalizing infrastructure like planting trees are all projects for which the money can be used, Harris explained.
In Wellesley Township, Mayor Joe Nowak says he is very appreciative of the provincial government for the money, and while he does not yet know where the money may go, there are a few things around the township where he believes the money could be used.
“There’s going to be a number of projects that we could consider [using this money for]. Trails obviously there’s one. There are some issues with maintenance on both arenas where there’s work that has to be done. I can’t get into specifics at this point but [all of those projects]… are shovel-ready because I think we pretty well know what exactly has to be done,” said Nowak.
Woolwich Township also does not yet know where they will allocate their almost $280,000. Chief administrative officer David Brenneman says staff are currently preparing a report to bring to council with recommendations on where they think the money should be used, noting Woolwich too is appreciative of the funding.
Harris said he hopes that municipalities will put their applications forward before the end of the year, with the application deadline no later than March 31, 2021. Projects must be underway by September 2021, and all projects must be completed by December 2021 under the rules of the funding program.
Harris says this funding is about ensuring that everyone in Ontario has the best ability to make it through the pandemic safely.
“We’re working together with our municipal [and] obviously provincial and federal partners to try and put our best foot forward to make sure that we give everybody here in the province of Ontario, the best opportunity to make it through COVID-19 safe and healthy. And that’s really our government’s number one priority and we’ve said that from the beginning.”