The federal government is offering $31 million to help communities find ways to adapt to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money could be used for everything from pop-up bike paths to art installations to apps to support local markets — efforts to improve quality of life as people live through the pandemic, said Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna.

"Canadians want to be able to work and play and learn in safe, vibrant and inclusive communities," she said in announcing the program.

"That's really what that's all about."

The new program, the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative, is aimed at non-governmental organizations that will work with municipalities and other groups to identify projects over the next two years.

The government says it is taking the $31 million from $170 million left in the Smart Cities Challenge program. That program has been used to encourage cities to find new ways to use data and technology to help residents.

McKenna said information on how groups can apply to the new program will be announced soon, and she looks forward to the ideas people bring forward.

"The trauma of this pandemic will eventually pass but in its wake the world will be a different place and Canada will be too," she said.

"We have a chance right now to think carefully about the Canada we need and the Canada we all want in the future."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2020.

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