ARICHAT: Having secured temporary funding to keep its community outreach and support worker operating in the county until early November, the Richmond County Literacy Network (RCLN) is now approaching three levels of government to make the post a permanent fixture.

RCLN coordinator Millie Hatt appeared before the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council last week in Arichat, with the hopes of securing the municipality’s support for a funding contribution of $30,000 towards the continuation of an outreach position filled by Jennie Comeau over the past two years.

Originally conceived as a year-long pilot project with additional support from the municipal and provincial governments, the Strait-Richmond Community Health Board, the Strait-Richmond Health Care Foundation, the United Way of Cape Breton and the now-defunct Guysborough-Antigonish-Strait Health Authority (GASHA), the outreach office secured an additional $10,000 to continue operating for the following year but was forced to shut down on September 2 when these funds ran out.

Emergency funding secured from the provincial government through the efforts of Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Michel Samson and his staff will allow Comeau to continue her work until November 4, with rotating office space in Arichat, St. Peter’s and L’Ardoise, as well as regular visits to Port Hawkesbury and the potential to operate semi-regularly out of Louisdale in the near future, Hatt added.

In the meantime, Hatt is approaching the municipal, provincial and federal governments with the hopes that each will approve the spending of $30,000 – or roughly $2,500 per month – to keep Comeau assisting seniors and others across the region for another full year.

“We have to look to a long-term solution to this problem,” Hatt declared. “We’re running out of time and we’re running out of options.”

To that end, councillors voted unanimously to ask Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Warren Olsen and the county’s Department of Finance to examine ways to accommodate RCLN’s request within the existing 2016-17 municipal budget. Richmond Warden Victor David told  Hatt that a two-week period “should be more than enough” to determine whether the municipality can provide the requested funds.

According to Hatt, Comeau has seen 403 clients and 267 families as of September 23, with eight referrals in the week prior to the council meeting – a statistic not lost on outgoing Evanston-area councillor Shirley McNamara.

“The program has been so effective in helping people who have been unable to solve their own problems,” said McNamara, “and I think it can be more effective as it goes along over a greater period of time and people become more familiar with what can be done by accessing these programs.”