Pin It
Favorite

Public Health opens up grant applications for pandemic relief 

San Luis Obispo County presented another chance for local nonprofits to secure much-needed dollars for pandemic relief, but some are concerned that the rules of eligibility will make the process inequitable.

LOSING OUT Smaller nonprofits like the SLO chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters are rethinking whether to apply for the pandemic relief aid organized by the county Department of Public Health because of concerns about well-staffed nonprofits winning competitive grants over them. - FILE IMAGE COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH
  • File Image Courtesy Of SLO County Public Health
  • LOSING OUT Smaller nonprofits like the SLO chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters are rethinking whether to apply for the pandemic relief aid organized by the county Department of Public Health because of concerns about well-staffed nonprofits winning competitive grants over them.

On May 27, the county issued a call for applications through the Public Health Department. With $5.9 million up for grabs, 12 organizations would be selected to pursue "pandemic recovery health improvement projects." The projects must address one or more of four themes—building an accessible and robust health care workforce, mental health and substance abuse, food access, and/or healthy aging.

But the competitive nature of the funds left Big Brothers Big Sisters of SLO County second-guessing.

"Larger nonprofits have a wider bandwidth to take on projects and potentially move staff members to execute those projects. As a result, they can be more nimble and responsive," said Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO Jenny Luciano. "When we're fully staffed, we have 10 people. But we do extremely important and mighty work for these families."

Ever since COVID-19 hit, Big Brothers Big Sisters has linked at-risk families with resources that kept them healthy and housed. But it also bore a heavy cost for these services, which Luciano estimated to be in the ballpark of $250,000.

That's why Big Brothers Big Sisters joined nearly 60 other nonprofits to apply for recovery grants funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). But they were in for a shock on May 17 when the SLO County Board of Supervisors only recommended grants for seven organizations, declaring after the fact that it had prioritized nonprofits that addressed housing and homelessness.

Luciano's group missed out on the chance to receive at least $25,000 of the $3 million round of grants. The roughly $6 million fund from Public Health comes from $14 million in ARPA funding that the department received for emergency response.

"My concern is that the Board of Supervisors is using this RFA [request for applications] through Public Health as a means to divert attention from how they're handling the RFA initially put out for nonprofits. It's great for some," she said. "The smallest nonprofits are suffering in ways that probably larger nonprofits did not. We seem to be the last to recover."

Luciano added that if Big Brothers Big Sisters applies before the June 30 deadline, the agency would pitch a project related to mental health and substance abuse, or healthy aging.

Public Health's RFA states that it won't consider projects pertaining to homelessness and the housing crisis. The department is looking for projects worth at least $50,000 in capital costs and $200,000 in operating expenses, with no maximum amount specified. Public Health reviewed health data and worked with SLO Health Counts to identify the four priority areas, according to Tara Kennon, the county health agency's COVID-19 public information officer.

"The Public Health Department team first identified how much funding would be needed for direct pandemic response and how much would be available for these health improvement projects to address disparities exacerbated by the pandemic. The team was then scheduled to begin working with community leaders to identify priority areas for where the funds would have meaningful impacts, but the winter surge delayed the timeline by a couple of months," Kennon said.

Luciano said that while she understands why the county is limiting grant recipients to 12 because of the time crunch and the cost of completing the projects around the same time, it could also be discouraging to smaller nonprofits.

"Twelve projects of $200,000 or more are likely going to be awarded to larger nonprofits that can turn those types of opportunities quickly," she said. Δ

Tags:

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Search, Find, Enjoy

Submit an event

© 2022 New Times San Luis Obispo
Powered by Foundation