+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 20-23F

Post-COVID Bridging Support for Small and Medium Community Facilities and Agricultural Societies

Date:
November 8, 2023
Expiry Date:
December 1, 2026
Active Status:
Active
Sponsors:
Smoky Lake County
District:
5 - Edmonton East
Year:
2023
Convention:
Fall
Category:
Community Services
Status:
Accepted in Part
Vote Results:
Carried
Preamble:

WHEREAS the global COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many aspects of civic society for more than two years, and continues to reverberate across rural communities, including volunteer organizations; and

WHEREAS small and medium community halls and facilities form a bedrock of the fabric of our rural communities; and

WHEREAS small and medium community halls and facilities serve as gathering places, cultural centers, youth and family hubs, evacuee reception and emergency operations centers; and

WHEREAS small and medium community halls and facilities are confronted with an existential challenge as they seek to rebuild and return to sustainability in a post-COVID world; and

WHEREAS many rural municipalities lack the capacity to single-handedly shoulder the burden of supporting these facilities and groups;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate to the Government of Alberta to enhance its capacity-building efforts and financial investments to ensure that small and medium community facilities and agricultural societies remain viable as they recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

Member Background:

Many rural municipalities have experienced a significant uptick in the number of operational support requests, as volunteer organizations struggle to return to sustainability in a post-COVID environment.

The Province of Alberta has a critically important bridging role to play in ensuring that the vibrant cultural fabric of our rural communities remains intact and can flourish into the next decades.

RMA Background:

RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.

Government Response:

Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation

Alberta’s government has heard the concerns of agricultural societies; we understand that rising costs have put pressure on these volunteer-driven organizations. In response, we recently announced the $2.5 million Agricultural Societies Infrastructure Revitalization Program (ASIRP) to support major facility repairs so agricultural societies can continue serving their communities. The ASIRP funding available to agricultural societies is in addition to the $11.5 million in annual funding that is already provided through the Agricultural Societies Grant Program.

ASIRP is intended to help address issues related to aging agricultural society infrastructure. Funding available through the program is intended to extend the useful life of the facility or infrastructure, address health and safety issues, improve functionality or service delivery and reduce operating costs.

To date, 35 projects have been approved for funding in 2023-24, including major repairs and renovations to arenas, curling rinks, community halls and grandstands.

The Government of Alberta offers additional sources of funding for community organizations and public infrastructure. For instance, the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Status of Women (ACSW) works in partnership with non-profit organizations to assist communities with renewal, expansion, purchase and building of public-use community facilities.

  • The Community Facility Enhancement Program provides financial assistance to acquire, build, purchase, repair, renovate, upgrade or expand sports, recreational, cultural or other related public-use community facilities.
  • The Community Initiatives Program provides non-capital funding for organizations that help Albertans engage with and develop their communities.

More information about these programs – including guidelines, eligibility, important dates, pre recorded online information sessions and department contact information – is available on the Community Grants website at https://www.alberta.ca/funding-for-non-profits.

The Family and Community Support Services Program (FCSS), offered by the Ministry of Seniors, Community and Social Services, is an 80/20 funding partnership between the Government of Alberta and participating municipalities and Metis Settlements to deliver preventive social supports in communities across Alberta. FCSS funding must be used to provide programs and services that are preventive in nature and that enhance the social wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. Budget 2023 includes $105 million for the FCSS program – a $5 million increase from Budget 2022.

A key principle of the FCSS grant program is local responsibility for setting priorities and allocating resources. Under the terms of the program, each municipality or Metis Settlement is responsible for allocating the FCSS funding it receives to best meet the needs of the local community. In 2022, 13 municipalities reported providing a total of $129,569 in FCSS funding to agricultural societies. Full program information is available at alberta.ca/family-and-community-support-services-fcss-program.

Development:

The efforts being made by multiple ministries throughout the Government of Alberta show a dedication to ensuring the viability to small and medium-sized community centres and agricultural societies. The Agricultural Societies Infrastructure Revitalization Program (ASIRP) is a positive funding model that has the potential to revitalize many agricultural societies infrastructure, so that they can continue serving their communities.

The programs and grants offered by the Ministry of Arts, Culture, and Status of Women support infrastructure and non-capital funding for projects that benefits small and medium community centres. The FCSS program is an invaluable asset to communities across the province in providing preventative services. However, it is essential that these programs receive enhanced funding in order to provide enough support for community centres and agricultural societies.

While the enhanced funding indicated in the response is a positive development, the resolution also requests an increase in capacity-building supports on the part of the province. This presumably includes areas such as asset management, financial planning, governance training, etc.

As the response is silent on capacity-building support, the RMA assigns this resolution a status of Accepted in Part  and will continue advocacy efforts to ensure that small and medium-sized community centres and agricultural societies get the funding and capacity building support that they need to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provincial Ministries:
Agriculture and Forestry,
Culture and Tourism,
Seniors,
Tourism, Parks and Recreation
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