(Calgary) – The Alberta government has announced a $1 million investment to help faith-based and cultural organizations recover costs associated with COVID-19 so they can continue to play a social, cultural and spiritual role in communities across the province.
Leaders of several Calgary faith-based and cultural organizations joined Minister of Culture Leela Sharon Aheer and Minister of Health Tyler Shandro in making the announcement. Raksh Joshi, President of the Hindu Society of Calgary hosted the gathering (in accordance with Covid-19 safety precautions).
“The ability to gather for worship and connect with our communities is critical for our mental health and well-being,” stated Minister Aheer. “The Faith-based and Cultural Facility Grant will help ensure these organizations can continue to give back to their communities, host gatherings and celebrate important holidays while following public health guidelines.”
From hosting online events, to facility upgrades and offering PPE, faith-based and cultural community groups have persevered to continue bringing hope, joy and connection to their communities. The new Faith-based and Cultural Facility Relaunch Grant will provide funding to offset costs related to following public health measures to ensure important religious and cultural gatherings can continue safely.
“By working together, we can help limit exposure to COVID-19 and protect one another,” remarked Minister Shandro. “This grant will make it easier for faith-based organizations to limit the spread in Alberta, while they provide fellowship and support to their communities.”
“Initiatives like the Faith-based and Cultural Facility Relaunch Grant are really appreciated, giving us the means to continue the expansion of remote and in-person programs and assistance,” stated Rabbi Menachem Matusof, Senior Rabbi and executive director of Chabad Alberta in Calgary. “Thank you for setting the tone and example for many to follow, in supporting individual and collective efforts in attending to the needs of our society.”
The leaders of the other faith-based organizations in attendance also greeted the announcement with enthusiasm.
“This pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetime and requires an unprecedented response,” stated Shaikh Fayaz Tilly, Imam, Muslim Council of Calgary and Muslim Chaplain at the University of Calgary. “Many thanks to Alberta’s government for their support to faith-based organizations, allowing them to provide hope, healing and positivity as the world is in the midst of uncertainty and disruption.”
Places of worship are not typically eligible for existing pandemic response funding, and have faced reduced donations and rental revenue, and increased costs for cleaning and facility changes to allow for physical distancing and increased ventilation. This new program fills the gap in funding to ensure these organizations can continue to serve their communities.
“As a non-profit Christian-based church, we are continuously ministering to vulnerable communities and trying to help deal with the mental and spiritual pain people are suffering with,” stated Harvest Healing Centre Church Pastor Elizabeht Karp. “There has been a definite increase in the needs of people and the isolation has been extremely difficult. Being able to continue to give people a safe environment of support is vital during these times. I am truly grateful for the support of our provincial government in recognizing the difficulties and expenses involved for our faith-based communities and extending financial aid to make sure our communities stay safe.”
“To keep our society members and devotees emotionally and devotionally engaged, the Government of Alberta is helping our communities stay positive and continue celebrating our important cultural festivals while following public health measures,” added Raksh Joshi, President of the Hindu Society of Calgary. “This support helps us raise awareness in the community of the importance of mental health and well-being through practising self-care, reducing social isolation and continuing to celebrate important festivals with new norms.”
Organizations can apply for up to $5,000 per facility to offset the costs incurred to follow public health measures. Eligible expenses include PPE, cleaning supplies and services, contactless dispensers, translation and printing services for health-related signage, small facility space changes to allow for physical distancing and increased ventilation, and technology upgrades for online delivery of services.
This one-time grant will cover costs incurred from April 1, 2020 to March 1, 2021. Applications will be processed following the first deadline of Dec. 15 and after the program closes on March 1, 2021, to ensure organizations that have already incurred costs related to COVID-19 can be reimbursed as quickly as possible.