Clarington arenas, halls need a financial boost to comply with vaccination certificate requirements

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Published October 18, 2021 at 4:55 pm

Arena and community hall staff and volunteers in Clarington are asking for extra assistance to deal with vaccination certificate requirements and the municipality appears ready to help.

Since the Province made vaccination certificates a requirement to attend events and enter municipal buildings, Clarington has had to hire private security to help staff – and in many cases volunteers – handle the screening responsibility.

The requirement exists for both board operated arenas and as vaccination verification is also required for the indoor spaces of facilities used for meeting and event spaces, all board operated community halls and the Visual Arts Centre must comply to be in operation as well.

The new rules do not allow the proof of vaccination requirement to be passed on to permit holders or event organizers, requiring staff, volunteers or a third party to be present during all operating hours to perform this task.

In addition to the existing challenges that facilities operated by volunteer boards have dealt with since the start of this pandemic, this latest amendment to their operating procedures has required them to provide an “additional level of staff/volunteers” to comply with the requirement. Gary Acorn, Clarington’s Director of Community Services, told Municipal Council if a board is unable to provide this new level of service, they are not able to operate.

The municipality will be looking to find some extra funding – using the COVID-19 Recovery and Safe Restart Relief Funds – for arena and community hall boards to ensure that won’t happen.

Since the pandemic was declared in March of 2020, there have been several openings and closings of recreational facilities in Clarington. Acorn said in his report to Council that staff adopted a “cautious approach” to re-opening in those early days, with enhanced cleaning and sanitization procedures, and active screening and contact tracing of all visitors put in place.

Those measures, he stated, added “significant cost to our operations” and with limited capacities permitted, revenues were also reduced.

Since the start of this pandemic, Council has provided COVID relief funding through various programs and grants, such as the creation of a $100,000 Community COVID Support Program in April of 2020 and a $60,000 application-based fund from May that would only be available to the board operated community halls and arenas.

Newcastle Arena’s board also asked for – and received – some extra cash in the 2021 budget.

As well, the Province has contributed $2.6 million to Clarington in the past year to help businesses recover from the pandemic and it is “anticipated” that there should be enough left in the kitty to cover COVID-related expenses until next March.

Acorn hopes Council can approve the recommendations. “The recent requirement to provide proof of vaccination has been one of the biggest hurdles we have had to overcome,” he said. “Without the financial support many of our community halls will remain closed or be forced to close.”

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