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Regent’s $40,000 request approved despite concern for others affected by COVID-19

The comments from the audience portion of council’s meeting Tuesday night in Wellington’s arena included a visual of a cow as the commenter noted he had a poor COVID haircut.

Remaining 2020 Community Grants budget funds not dispersed due to the pandemic, will go toward a new COVID-19 grant program in the fall, support the Regent Theatre, and next year’s grant program.

Four supported the motion by councillor Janice Maynard to reduce, by half, the $40,000 in funding requested by the Regent Theatre.

Councillor Jamie Forrester noted the Regent has been supported with grants for more than a decade, while reporting over recent years it is closer to becoming self-sustaining. He expects there will be many more in need as the pandemic continues.

Councillor Andreas Bolik expressed specific concern about helping others who have never applied for grants before, but because of the pandemic, will be in their greatest need.

“COVID has struck everybody,” he said. “And we have a number of non-profits and charities throughout the County that are feeling this and many raise their funds, and are self-sufficient through things like fairs and other social get-togethers which aren’t happening for obvious reasons. A number of them have come to us and asked for things as simple as deferral of taxes. That’s not possible unless you’re a charity, by law. So I think it’s difficult to tell all of these small outfits who have never come to us before that, ‘sorry, there’s nothing for you’ but we have $40,000 for someone who has been coming to us for 12 years.”

Supporting the $40,000 ask, councillor Bill Roberts also suggested the Regent board and stakeholders also seek multi-year and private sector support to move forward in the future.

He is also concerned for many not-for-profits, volunteer groups and charities in Prince Edward County post-COVID-19 who are “heading for a really hard wall.”

“The under-pinning of our economic recovery post-COVID is highly dependent in terms of a healthy community on those charities and not-for-profits,” he said. “We have roughly 17 per cent of the population of the Quinte region and we have 40 per cent of the charities and not-for-profits sustaining us. That translates into roughly 120 not-for-profits and charities as a ball-park number, so being able to fund and support up to 32 organizations (with the new fall grant program) isn’t the whole job.”

Mayor Steve Ferguson said he couldn’t imagine the effect to Main Street and the economy should the Regent Theatre “go dark” in the fall as it projects, without immediate funding to pivot its business.

The $40,000 grant was approved 10-4 by council, meeting in-person, socially distanced at the Wellington arena, and accepting virtual comments.

The $153,644 cash and $23,142 in-kind, remains in the Community Grants budget after projects and events not affected by social distancing measures were granted funds this spring. Grants provided in May included $68,600 in cash and $6,860 in-kind to applicants not affected, and some were conditional on events taking place after Sept. 1.

In consultation with The County Foundation (TCF), which oversees the grant process, $68,600 in a new COVID-19 Community Grant Program would go to eligible groups, not-for-profits and charities unable to qualify for other COVID-19 related emergency funding, and who are finding difficulty covering operating expenses.

“The eligibility and spirit of this proposed one-off grant deviates from the Community
Grant Program in that it would support operating expenses rather than project-based
funding,” said Emily Cowan, Grants and Special Projects Co-ordinator, in her report to council. “TCF would be contracted to facilitate the grant process, advertise and adjudicate the grant in partnership with the County.”

With TCF’s contribution of $5,000 the COVID-19 Community Grant amount available is $73,600, estimated to support up to 32 organizations of various sizes. The remaining $45,000 from this year is to be transferred to the 2021 Community Grants budget.

The Regent Theatre earlier this month had requested $40,000 to pivot operations in response to current public health measures.

The Regent had applied for a 2020 community grant of $40,000 to fund an engineering report on the building and TCF’s committee recommended the project get $35,000.

“In the emergency, staff reviewed all recommendations for grant awards by TCF and in this instance determined the request for funds could be granted in a future year,” said Cowan, noting the funds instead could be made available for its operation.

At the June 9 council meeting, Alexandra Saey, general manager for the theater, made a deputation regarding urgent need for funding.

She outlined the effects of closing the theatre for four months (and not yet approved to open) and noted the Regent would no longer be viable by the end of September without immediate financial support.

She described plans to offer entertainment in various forms and create new revenue streams that generate income and support other community organizations, such as renting spaces within the theatre as well as providing audio-visual equipment, expertise and space to businesses and organzations.

The funds cover $18,000 for screening and video equipment, $2,600 for computer software licences; $6,000 for online marketing; $4,000 for protective personal equipment and $10,034 for a digital media co-ordinator.

The remaining $45,000 cash and $23,000 in-kind going to the 2021 fund is expected to help anticipated greater need as community organizations are expected to repay loans and deferred expenses and are no longer receiving subsidies or benefits.

Cowan’s report noted staff is “acutely aware of the financial impact on the municipality of deferring property taxes and providing water bill relief, waiving parking and bag tag fees, and the moratorium on hall rentals, for example. This lack of revenue will make for difficult conversations during the 2021 budget deliberations. Staff are hoping to alleviate some of that pressure by transferring unspent funds from the 2020 Community Grant budget to the 2021 Community Budget, therefore requesting a smaller amount from municipal coffers to “top-up” the 2021 Community Grant budget,” leaving at least $50,000 available to be allocated to a different budget line.

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  1. Nigel Sivel says:

    Great to see the Regent theatre receive the recent grant from the county. It is a unique feature of our community and is worthy of the support. Theatres like the Regent around Canada and the world are always supported with some grant funds from local and federal government’s, especially in the UK and Europe. Myself, Susan Sivel, and Larry Tayler are proud to have founded the Regent Theatre Foundation in 1983 that led to the local, provincial and national support saving the theatre for us all to enjoy today. Let’s all do what we can to support our wonderful theatre.
    Nigel Sivel

  2. Angela says:

    It’s time for the Regent to sink or swim. Ditto for PEFAC.

  3. Picton guy says:

    I have to wonder how much money the regent has been given by the council over the past say 5 years? I also wonder how much has been given to pefac over the same time period.

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