The City of Kamloops is exploring the idea of helping local businesses impacted by vandalism and graffiti during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday (April 7), the municipality’s finance committee voted to bring a report to city council at a future meeting, seeking approval for a funding program, with a recommended grant source, distributor and funding criteria to be determined.
City staff intend to include the program’s funding as part of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities’ strengthening communities’ services grant that council will vote on seeking next week. Failing that, the funds would likely come out of the already received provincial COVID Safe Restart Grant.
City of Kamloops corporate services director Kathy Humphrey said the Community Charter restricts a city from paying businesses directly without outlining a community benefit, so staff want an organization such as the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce or a business improvement association to distribute the funds based on such criteria.
Having a local organization distribute the funds would cost less and be more streamlined for the municipality, which would have to draw up individual agreements with each business if doling out the dollars itself.
The funds would still be available to all businesses throughout Kamloops and not just member businesses of whichever organization agrees to distribute the money.
City staff have been looking into providing funds to local businesses experiencing increased costs for additional vandalism repair and graffiti cleanup amidst the pandemic, following a request in February from Coun. Mike O’Reilly, who chairs the finance committee.
That assistance is pegged to be based on need, to a maximum dollar figure of $500, or 50 per cent of the cost to address the vandalism.
“If it’s 1,000 bucks, you get 500 bucks, if it’s $10,000 ,you get 500 bucks,” O’Reilly told KTW.
He has told the finance committee that Kamloops RCMP has reported a spike in vandalism to businesses during the pandemic.
“Part of the reason this is happening is there’s not the activity there used to be, so people find more opportunities when there’s nobody around to do their criminal activities, and that’s where these spikes are coming from,” O’Reilly told KTW.
He said this is a program he hopes will help “bridge that gap” in getting businesses to open again and stay operating.
“The flip side is, if we’re not able to support businesses through these tough times, they close down and then you have empty storefronts sitting there for what could be years, which would cost us on taxation,” O’Reilly said.