Meaford’s council has voted in favour of an updated recreation policy that will offer an increased funding cap along with increased eligibility.
The motion, given final approval by council at their February 13 meeting, was the result of a motion brought forward by newly elected Councillor Brandon Forder on January 16, in which he sought an update to the annual funding cap and eligibility criteria.
Meaford’s recreation subsidy program was launched in 2019, and the Meaford Food Bank & Outreach was enlisted to administer the program which allows residents of the municipality to apply for a subsidy for a range of recreation activities. In 2021, a Recreation Fund policy was established in order to provide clarity for eligibility, and an updated memorandum of understanding was agreed upon by the Municipality and the Food Bank & Outreach.
Forder’s motion asked municipal staff to bring forward an updated Recreation Fund Policy to increase the income cutoffs for eligibility.
Under the terms of the updated policy, applicants must reside in the Municipality of Meaford and have a before-tax income of less than the most recent Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut-off (LICO) plus an additional $60,000 (previously $40,000) for children, and $30,000 (previously $20,000) for adults 20 and older.
In recognition of inflationary pressures that have seen costs of everything, including recreation activities, increase over the past year, the annual funding cap has been increased from $500 to $750 per person for children, and from $250 to $500 per person for adults.
Applicants must contribute 10 percent of the total cost with a minimum contribution of $25 per activity, equipment or transportation.
“Councillor Forder’s motion included recent inflation and other financial challenges as reasons to increase the household income eligibility criteria. Staff believe that similar logic can be applied to the maximum amount of funding available per person annually. Costs for programs and equipment have increased significantly since 2019. Staff believe that the annual cap should increase to reflect these increases,” staff noted in their report to council.
Additionally, costs for support workers are now included in the policy.
“Municipal recreation programming aims to be as accessible to all as possible. However, some members of the community are only able to participate with assistance from a support worker. For families and individuals with limited income, the cost for the support worker to attend a program with them can be prohibitive. Including support worker costs in the eligibility criteria for the recreation subsidy will enable more members of the community to participate in recreation activities,” staff advised council.
With the passage of the by-law to adopt the updated policy municipal staff will provide the updated policy, which takes effect immediately, to Meaford Food Bank & Outreach.
“Staff will also work with Meaford Food Bank & Outreach to advertise the expanded eligibility criteria, including updates to the municipal website and inclusion of the program in upcoming municipal newsletters,” staff noted in their report.
Staff stated in their report to council that there is no immediate financial impact for the municipality as the total funding amount for the program won’t change, however they note that, “The changes may increase demand for the program, which could lead to requests for additional funding in future years.”