Skip to content

Grant funding cuts have community groups concerned for future

Some local community support agencies say they're concerned for the future after the funding amounts for the city's 2023 outside agency grant program were approved by council last week. 
Two local non-profits are concerned for what the future holds after not receiving as much grant funding from the city as they were expecting. FILE/Photo

Some local community support agencies say they're concerned after their funding was cut from the city's budget for non profit agencies. 

Linda Ensley, the executive director of the St. Albert Seniors Association, says the organization's 2023 grant of $208,596, which is nearly $11,000 less than what the group received this year, is going to result in cuts to services for seniors, such as Meals on Wheels. 

"The reduction in our funding hit us hard," Ensley said in an email. "It felt like a kick in the shins."

The city's annual outside agency grant, which is funded through a per-capita $9 levy, helps local organizations cover operational and staffing costs. Each year, the funding amount for eligible grant applicants is debated by the Community Services Advisory Committee (CSAC), which is made up of nine citizens and a city councillor, although the councillor cannot vote on any committee matters. 

After debating funding amounts for each applicant, the CSAC recommends grant amounts to council for approval. During the Dec. 20 council meeting, the 2023 funding recommendations for 10 local organizations were approved. 

The cut in funding for the seniors centre is going to have a large impact on the organization, said Ensley. 

"That reduction, which for some reason seems small to others, makes a world of difference to us, and the lack of government funding in any amount will make getting back on our feet harder," Ensley said, adding the funding cut has led her to eliminate a staff position.

"If we continue to be cut as we have been in the last five years, year after year, while we said nothing, I don’t know if the seniors will have the kind of services and programs they have now," Ensley said.

In 2019 the seniors association received $244,436 from the grant, and has yet to receive the same level of funding since.

Another local organization, Kaleo Collective, will have its work cut out next year after being denied any funding for 2023, despite receiving a grant of $21,415 this year. Kaleo Collective provides and organizes courses and support groups for single mothers.

Kaleo Collective executive director and founder Layna Haley spoke to council on Dec. 20 about the CSAC's recommendation not to provide funds, and council heard that the CSAC's recommendation was based on seeing Kaleo Collective as providing duplicate services in St. Albert, and because of some confusion about where the organization is located. 

Council heard that the CSAC considered Kaleo Collective to provide the same services as the St. Albert Family Resource Centre. However, Haley argues that although the services may be similar, her organization's programming occurs mainly in the evenings, so working single mothers are able to access services, whereas programs offered through the Family Resource Centre occur during the day.

"There are no other organizations like Kaleo Collective and we're dedicated first of all to offering programming specifically to single moms and their children, and we don't see that replicated in the community," Haley said in an interview. 

"We can see that there's a demand right for this type of programming service and we create it around the schedules that work for single moms, and most of them are working moms," Haley said. "Accessing programming during regular business hours is not something that they can typically do."

Without funding from the city's outside agency grant next year, Haley says her organization will need to re-assess, but is confident it will find a solution. 

"It seems like a problem right now, but there's always an answer to a problem," Haley said. 

"We're going to figure out what do we need to do in order to continue to serve the clients with a level of excellence and where we might have to make some adjustments, and maybe we have to trim back some things."

Other agencies will also see reduced grant funding next year, such as the Visual Arts Studio Association (VASA), which will receive $18,060 next year, a decrease of $9,625. VASA did not respond to The Gazette's interview request.

Organizations receiving increased grant funding next year include the St. Albert Community Village and Food Bank, which will receive $120,230, an increase of $9,555; St. Albert Victim Services, which will receive $78,988 next year, an increase of $12,472; and Outloud, which will receive $28,000 next year, an increase of $11,710.

Coun. Mike Killick, who serves as the council representative on the CSAC, confirmed that Michif Cultural Connections did not apply for the 2023 outside agency grant, but did not know why. 

This year, Michif Cultural Connections, whose programming revolves around Métis culture and history at the Juneau House on Mission Avenue, received $9,697 through the grant program. The organization did not respond to The Gazette's interview request.

"With a fixed amount of money we can't meet everybody's needs or everybody's asks," Killick said about the difficulty of deciding each organization's grant amount. "I think we ended up as best we could with the recommendations that were approved."

"It's really important that residents know that it's not something that was just arrived at on a quick-decision basis, it was well-debated."

Grant program to be evaluated next year

Earlier this month, Coun. Natalie Joly put forward a motion to have council discuss some changes to the outside agency grant program next year prior to the 2024 grant application process, including a possible change to the program's funding formula to increase the amount of money available through the grant. 

"What we're experiencing right now is unprecedented in my time at St. Albert," Joly said in an interview. "We're looking at inflation, we're looking at increased need in our community in terms of social support, and our non-profits are really feeling both that demand and the financial challenges of the current environment."

"We should be responsive to that because our community partners bring so much to the community," Joly said, adding that she would like to see a revised funding model that considers inflation and population changes on a year-to-year basis, rather than a set funding formula that can only be changed through policy.

Likewise, Coun. Sheena Hughes told The Gazette that she would also like to see the program's policy revised to clarify which organizations are eligible, as she would like to see situations like Kaleo Collective's avoided in the future.

"It will hopefully provide just a bit more clarity and increased funding," Hughes said.

"I want the [policy to be] that whatever the funding comes in at, it's reliable for [outside agencies] so they know it's not just one year and then they still have to scramble for next year," Hughes said.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
Read more


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks