FAYETTEVILLE – Several proposals totaling up to $4 million are giving City Council members a choice on how to spend the rest of the American Bailout money.
Councilwoman Sonya Harvey sponsored a measure to allocate $3 million in financial aid or grants for projects to nonprofit arts and culture organizations in the city.
Separately, Councilwoman Teresa Turk sponsored a $1 million measure to allow organizations to apply for financial assistance for pandemic-related revenue losses between March 2020 and March 2021. The city’s existing program, which provides financial assistance to nonprofit organizations, covers revenue losses between March 2021. until March 2022.
The council will consider both proposals on Tuesday.
Both offers will include their own application processes. The arts and culture proposal period is tentatively scheduled for the city to accept applications beginning in February. City finance staff will review applications to ensure they meet federal government requirements. By March, the city’s resident-led Arts Council, an advisory group to the City Council, will review eligible applications and compile a list of recommendations. The City Council will accept the Fine Arts Council’s recommendations and decide which organizations to award money to by April.
A tentative application processing schedule for the financial assistance offer has not been set, but it will operate in the same way as the previous application process, which was open from February 18 to April. The City Council ultimately approved all of the applications it received from nonprofits seeking to compensate for financial losses during the pandemic, totaling $582,013 to 11 organizations.
The largest financial aid was given to St. James Missionary Baptist Church, $150,510. FHA Development, the nonprofit development arm of the Fayetteville Housing Authority, received the second largest amount, $104,936. The Fayetteville Public Library Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising organization for the library, received the third largest amount, $89,016.
Organizations seeking financial assistance had to provide the city with supporting documents to verify the amounts. The period covered for financial losses was from March 2021 to March 2022. Turk said he wants to make sure nonprofits have the ability to recoup losses they may have suffered in the first year of the pandemic.
Tests and tables
The city divided the $17.9 million in federal bailout money into three categories.
Nonprofit organizations had two options.
They could request money simply to recoup past financial losses during the pandemic, as long as they provided proper documentation to the city. They could also receive money for service to the community. That process involves entering into a “subcontractor” agreement with the city that will remain in effect for as long as the proposed project or program lasts.
The third bucket was for city projects. The council has allocated about $7.8 million of the total so far for city use. The largest portion, about $5.1 million, was intended to offset the city’s financial losses during the pandemic and could have been used for a variety of purposes, such as water and sewer work, parks or computer network upgrades. The Council has not yet made a decision on the use of these funds.
Other city uses include about $1.8 million in employee evaluation pay, $500,000 for a child care voucher program, $201,840 to assess water quality at Lake Fayetteville and $181,100 for a vaccine incentive program.
As for the nonprofit group, the board has approved about $4.2 million for programs so far. The largest amount, about $1.4 million, went to the Watershed Conservation Resource Center for flood protection efforts. The Fayetteville Public Library has received more than $1.2 million for a workforce development program at its Center for Innovation and Kitchen Learning. Central EMS received $757,917 to purchase ambulances and equipment and pay premiums to employees. Peace at Home Family Shelter received $686,500 for its expansion. The Northwest Arkansas Council received $93,969 for a vaccine awareness campaign.
In total, the board approved spending more than $12.6 million of the $17.9 million.
In addition to Harvey’s $3 million proposal and Turk’s $1 million proposal, the board will have two other potential appropriations on its agenda Tuesday. Magdalene Serenity House is seeking $128,789 to renovate a home for graduates of its program for formerly incarcerated women. WelcomeHealth is seeking $75,000 to help provide clients with one year of free medical and dental care.
On Jan. 17, the board is scheduled to consider a proposal to award $742,223 to the Excellerate Foundation for a vocational training program.
If the board approves all five proposed uses of federal aid money, totaling about $4.9 million, that would leave $343,699 unallocated.
There are still several program proposals rated highly in the city’s points system that councilors have not brought up for consideration.
The Illinois River Watershed Partnership requested $893,272 for stormwater conservation work. The Beaver Watershed Alliance has requested $100,000 to clean up the Town Branch watershed. Legal Aid of Arkansas has requested $92,156 to provide legal services to residents whose Medicaid has been terminated.
In addition, Apple Seeds requested $71,000 to provide nutrition and cooking classes to low-income families. The Crisis Intervention Center of Northwest Arkansas was seeking $50,000 to support the Suicide Prevention Hotline. Credit Counseling of Arkansas requested $35,200 to provide financial counseling to low-income residents.
There are still more organizations whose applications for programs or projects have not been very high. The city received a total of 34 applications requesting more than $20 million.
The child care voucher program, for which the city allocated $500,000, had about 150 applications, with 35 to 40 applications, said Chief Financial Officer Paul Becker. The project is scheduled to start next month.
The program will provide vouchers to low- and moderate-income families to cover childcare costs for up to 12 monthly payments to a childcare provider. Anyone who lives, works or attends school in the city and meets the income guidelines can apply.
At Tuesday’s agenda-setting session, Becker and Mayor Lionel Jordan told the City Council that the project will likely need more money.
“It’s going to be a very popular program,” Becker said.
The city has until the end of 2024 to commit all of its bailout money and spend it through 2026. Otherwise, the city must return any unspent funds to the federal government.
Harvey said the council had a tough job ahead of it to figure out the best use of the remaining bailout money. He said the $3 million offered to arts and cultural organizations was the Arts Council’s proposal, with the goal of aiming high and seeing how much the city would be willing to commit. Harvey, who represents the City Council on the Arts Council, said he is open to discussing the money.
Harvey said he wants creative economy groups to have their chance to get help so they stand out from other requests. He heard from a number of arts organizations who said they were still feeling the effects of the pandemic.
“For me, it’s about the individuals and industries that have been most affected by COVID,” he said.
Turk said he believes the main purpose of the bailout money should be to allow nonprofits to recover lost revenue. He suspected the city could receive more applications than the first time, extending the start of the epidemic from March 2020 to March 2021, when many restrictions related to COVID were in place.
“We really need to make these groups whole again, get them back on their feet,” Turk said.