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Temporary changes to Fee Assistance Program amidst COVID-19

Lethbridge City Council has approved recommendations from the Stimulus Funding and Financial Stability working group to modify the Fee Assistance Program which provides financial assistance to residents for recreation and culture activities. These changes were approved to increase the effectiveness of the program and meet the evolving COVID-19 circumstances.

"Through our economic recovery committee work, we heard from City staff that we could be doing something different with this program to help more people," says Jeff Coffman, City Councillor and Chair of Stimulus Funding and Financial Stability working group. "Identifying these types of opportunities and moving them forward was the exact reason we created these working groups and we are pleased to be finding ways to help residence through this difficult time."

The Fee Assistance Program was not used from mid-March until mid-July while facilities were closed and activities cancelled. Through the relaunch and start-up of classes and activities, the need to pivot the program became evident.

"As we start to get more requests, we are hearing a lot of the same concerns about the limitations of the Fee Assistance program in the new COVID world," says Lori Harasem, Recreation and Culture Development Manager. "These change will really help in addressing these concerns and best meeting the needs of our community as well as the organizations and businesses offering programs."

The temporary policy revisions will broaden the scope of the program and include:

  • Eligibility Criteria – add "currently on CERB". The federal government has required all EI applicants to use CERB first before they are put on EI. Adding CERB allows those unemployed/underemployed individuals to qualify for this program.
  • Replace "Be a minimum of four classes in length or a membership" with "Classes or membership at an organization that offers recreational or cultural activities" The offerings of many organizations have changed because of the risks of COVID-19. The policy didn't allow for approval of all of the current options available for community members, in particular online classes that are less than four classes in length. The rewording of what qualifies also clarifies that memberships at cultural attractions qualify, not just recreational or sport facilities (ie Galt Museum, SAAG, etc.)
  • Change the maximum amount per person from $150.00 to $200.00. Because of the COVID-19 shut down earlier this year and a drop in current participation, likely due to COVID risk, it is expected that the overall demand on this program will be less in 2020. Raising the amount available per person will allow some people to more fully participate or participate for longer in their desired activity.

These changes will be in place until December 31, 2020 or until the program budgeted funding for 2020 is fully used.

For more information on the Fee Assistance program visit www.lethbridge.ca/feeassistance


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