The Gwaii Trust Society has increased its COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to half a million dollars.
Carla Lutner, chief operations officer for the trust, told the Observer the board of directors decided to increase the fund to $500,000 at their meeting on April 23.
The preliminary budget of $250,000 had been fully allocated, Lutner explained, with over 20 grants going out to local governments and non-profit organizations serving residents affected by the pandemic.
“A lot of the focus has been on food security and connecting people,” she said.
According to data provided to the Observer by Lutner, as of May 20, there were 27 grants totalling $410,160 that had been given from the fund.
The three biggest grants given to date, of $50,000 each, went to the Haida Gwaii School District, approved on April 15, to purchase 45 Google Chromebooks and 25 iPads for students doing distributed learning, as well as two grants of the same size for the Secretariat of the Haida Nation, for iPads for elders and economic supports.
Other all-island grants given out to date include $30,000 to the Old Massett Village Council for halibut, $13,568 to the Hecate Strait Employment Development Society, and $25,000 to Local Food to School for food and deliveries.
Grants given for initiatives that benefit the south of the island to date include $31,190 to the Islands Wellness Society Feed the People food bank and $1,000 to Queen Charlotte Support Services for youth tutoring.
Other organizations in Old Massett had received a total of $35,400, including $26,400 to the Haida Health Centre Adult Day Program for meal preparation and delivery.
Organizations in the Village of Masset had received a total of $36,262, with the largest grant ($16,700) going to the Village of Masset Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to support local food programs.
One Port Clements organization, the Cedarview Church, had received $20,000 for food and emergency income assistance.
Pastor Wes Harder told the Observer the church is providing local, plasticized food and gas vouchers to residents.
“When we’ve offered help I can tell there’s emotion attached,” Harder said. “I know that people are not gouging, they’re not asking for more than they need.”
Organizations in Sandspit had received a total of $36,237, with most of that (two grants totalling $29,437) going to the Sandspit Community Society for Meals on Wheels.
Organizations in the Village of Queen Charlotte had received $17,475 and organizations in Skidegate had received $14,028, with the local EOC receiving the majority of the monies in both cases ($10,000 to each EOC, which the Skidegate EOC shared with the X̱aay DaG̱a Dlaang Society).
Village of Queen Charlotte chief administrative officer and EOC director Lori Wiedeman told the Observer the EOC would be using its funding to “for items that are not approved through Emergency Management BC.”
Although the fund is using a “significant, unbudgeted amount” of money, Lutner said the trust is able to provide the grants by reaching into its buffer.
“Our investment funds have done better in the past — not as well right now — but we’ve set aside funds,” she said. “We ensure there’s at least 20 per cent beyond the protected amount to withstand these ebbs and flows of the market.”
During the Haida Gwaii Talks Coronavirus webinar on April 16, hosted by the Council of the Haida Nation, Lutner said the trust’s overall fund had “dipped down about 7 or 8 per cent” depending on the day.
However, she said through financial management, such as previously protecting the original amount for inflation, diversifying the fund with a mix of stocks, bonds and real estate investments, and setting aside the buffer, “we’re doing fine.”
As such, she said they had not cancelled any grants other than the Travel Assistance Grant.
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