The District is considering offering a 50% recreational program discount to people on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program.
It was a highlight during an update to municipal staff update to council June 23, where the state of recreational facilities in Squamish were discussed.
The existing recreation access pass gives families a 50% discount on recreation programs, as well as swimming and skating.
Up until this point, eligibility has been determined by income, but adding CERB as a qualifier would help people struggling during the pandemic.
"The recreation access pass during COVID is obviously a lever we want our community to know about," said Devon Guest, acting director of recreation services.
The District is also considering increasing free or low-barrier programming in general.
Natasha Golbeck, the District's senior director of community services, said staff were considering eliminating a lot of the bureaucratic red tape involved in applying to get assistance for the recreation access pass.
"We would enable greater access for people experiencing financial hardship in challenging times," she said.
Golbeck noted that it's hard to predict the financial impact of these measures.
That's because there isn't firm data on how many people are on the CERB program, and it's hard to predict how many of them would be interested in applying for the recreation access pass.
Coun. Doug Race said he was comfortable trying it out, even if the financial consequences aren't clear.
"From my perspective, we just take the risk, I think that's something that municipal government should do to help our population get through this rather extraordinary event," said Race.
He added that the District can use money from its reserves to fund the program in the meantime, and can later replenish the reserve over future budget cycles.
"Sticking our neck out a little bit, but I think it's exposure... we can manage," he said.
Guest said that facilities are reopening in a five-phased plan.
Currently, the Brennan Park Recreation Centre is operating at Level 2, which means facilities are closed, but outdoor recreation programming is being offered.
Guest said the centre will soon move to Level 3 this summer, which would open up some facilities. This would allow summer camps in outdoor settings, the municipal campground to open, sports fields returned to modified play, and the resumption of the Neuro Fit program for those with neurological conditions.
Should that phase continue to go smoothly, further openings will occur in September. The arena, gyms and the pool will be opened up using physical distancing protocols.
The pool won't be shut down for its annual cleaning, as that work is being taken care of already.
Staff will take into account council's feedback regarding adding CERB as a qualifier for a 50% discount, and will provide further updates at a later council meeting.