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Lethbridge organizations react to $17M in provincial funding for performing arts, sports, rodeo

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Provincial grant offers support to Alberta’s sport, rodeo, art organizations' COVID-19: Provincial grant offers support to Alberta’s sport, rodeo, art organizations
On Thursday, the province announced it would be providing $17 million in funding for venue-based live experience organizations amid COVID-19. But, as Eloise Therien explains, some who need the help don’t qualify. – Jan 29, 2021

On Thursday, the province of Alberta announced it would provide $17 million in grants through the Stabilize Program, to help performing arts, sports and rodeo organizations as they continue to suffer financially as result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding will come in the form of a one-time grant for eligible organizations.

“This funding is critical to supporting venues and events that build and sustain vibrant communities and our cultural heritage and our mental well-being,” said Leela Sharon Aheer, minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, in Thursday’s media release.

“Reinvigorating our live experience sector will also bring back jobs and foster tourism to support our economic recovery. When arts, culture, sport and heritage thrive, Alberta thrives.”

Read more: Alberta new business owners, NDP call for changes to newly expanded relaunch grant

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According to the province, the purpose of the funding is to enable organizations to maintain their operations to support the live experience sector in Alberta, and have a better foundation when they are able to return to normal operations.

It focuses on venue-based groups, and can accommodate a maximum funding request of up to 25 per cent of eligible expenses.

Some eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • An established Alberta-based professional team or non-profit elite amateur league or team with an Alberta-based majority ownership (51 per cent or more)
  • Non-profit organizations that are the primary organizers of an annual Alberta-based rodeo
  • Non-profit art organizations that own and/or operate performing and presenting arts venues

Read more: Expansion of Alberta relaunch grant still leaves some newer businesses out

Kevin Kvame, general manager of the Lethbridge Bulls, says this funding would be an asset to their eventual return to the pitch, if they are chosen as a recipient.

“We are evaluating it right now and making sure that we are a fit, and that this is something that we want to pursue,” Kvame said. “It’s got a tight time window on it, so a lot of information to gather.”

What about non-owners and operators?

However, some organizations are disappointed they don’t quite qualify.

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“When we heard the announcement of the program, we were hopeful and optimistic that there would be funding support for a company like New West Theatre could access,” said artistic director Kelly Reay.

“Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, so (there’s) certainly disappointment around that.”

Raey says New West Theatre has benefitted from federal support such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program, but so far no provincial or municipal COVID-19 financial aid has been made available for their organization.

Read more: Lethbridge’s New West Theatre returns to stage with first-ever live drive-in show

He adds they are a non-profit art organization, but they don’t qualify because they only pay rent and don’t actually own or operate their primary venue.

“Only companies that operate venues are eligible, and New West Theatre doesn’t operate the Yates, it’s operated by the city,” he explained.

“I would just hope that it’s not the end of support, and that there is further support for the artists and the non-venue companies who are also struggling very much right now.”

The deadline to apply for the Stabilize Program is Feb. 18, and applicants will be contacted with a decision in April 2021.

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