The Gainesville City Commission on Thursday voted to accept funding recommendations for allocating millions of federal dollars for local nonprofit organizations.
The Community Foundation of North Central Florida’s board of directors evaluation team provided the recommendations to the commission.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), which President Joe Biden signed in 2021, provided Gainesville with more than $6 million to give aid to local nonprofit organizations and programs that benefit the community.
The funding is meant to offer financial support to nonprofit agencies that are serving residents who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and that are actively providing critical services to citizens.
“Our mission is to promote and sustain philanthropy in North Central Florida,” said Barzella Papa, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of North Central Florida.
Out of the 46 nonprofit organizations that applied for funding, only 36 were selected for awards.
Funding awards range from $5,000 to $750,000 to ensure an “equitable distribution of funds with an emphasis placed on human service organizations” serving community members affected by the pandemic.
The Evaluation Team reviewed applications and individually scored applications based on the criteria established by the U.S. Department of Treasury Guidance and with the assistance of the City’s General ARPA Consultant Government Services Group, LL, and Anser Advisory Company. Once an average score was calculated, applicants were sorted from highest to lowest score.
Stephanie Bailes, president and CEO of Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention, spoke to the board about her struggles to ensure that the museum can remain in operation. Bailes said while she was thankful to receive $10,000 in funding, it is not enough to support the museum.
The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention was one of the four organizations with an average score of 65-69.9% and was awarded $10,000 in funding. The museum requested to be awarded the highest aid package in the amount of $750,000.
“Unfortunately, outside of federal funding and these few local philanthropists, we have little unrestricted local support,” Bailes said.
The museum has partnered with various community organizations and made a five-year commitment to junior achievement, hosting free classes at YMCA and Gainesville Community Centers, as well as family events for Head Start and Pace Center for Girls graduation ceremonies.
“The leaders in our community either have a misperception that the Cade has no need of funding or they see no value in the Cade and its mission,” Bailes said.
The Cade does not get donations from Gatorade, invented by Dr. Robert Cade, or the University of Florida.
For almost three years, the Cade museum has been operating with an eight to 12-week runway of cash flow, until last week when Bailes received a federal employee payroll tax credit. Bailes said the museum was planning to significantly modify operation plans just to make it through next week’s payroll, had it not received that funding infusion.
The museum planned to use the $750,000 funding to commit to continuing two more years of Operation Full STEAM. The program is designed to provide equitable access to cutting-edge informal science education for over 800 at-risk 2nd through 5th graders in Idylwild, Metcalfe, and Lake Forest elementary schools.
“We did this all believing that if we offered services and ourselves that the funding would come,” she said.
Bailes was depending on the approval of the maximum grant amount to support the operations of the museum, now, the museum face issues staying operational.
“At the moment we have cash on hand to get us through June,” Bailes said.
The museum could be eligible for more funding “if the applicant can draw more of a causal relationship between the resources provided and the effects of the pandemic, or target services at communities which meet low-income guidelines,” according to GSG’s Chris Polishuck’s evaluation of the museums grant application.
The Greater Duval Neighborhood Association applied for ARPA funding to be allocated in support of salaries. In its application, it explained that the grant would go toward staffing a permanent professional administrative staff and costs and transportation needs that serve the community’s youth and elders.
Andrew Miles, Greater Duval Neighborhood Association’s executive director, said he believed that the scores given to each organization were subjective toward the evaluator and asked the board to offer insight on why scoring varied greatly on the organization.
“I feel like we’re David and Goliath in here,” Miles said.
Polishuck’s review of the Greater Duval Neighborhood Association’s application explained that the organization could be eligible for funding, but “additional information regarding the specific services as well as data supporting the income levels of recipients,” is required.
Hopeful about what the organizations will do to improve the city’s philanthropic efforts, Barzella Papa believes that the ARPA fund is an investment into the city’s nonprofit organizations that will leave a positive impact on countless lives for years to come.
The commissioners will meet at their General Policy Committee on April 28 to inquire about program updates from the city staff and to discuss future training opportunities that nonprofit organizations can attend.