As Tompkins County continues to cope with homelessness, labor shortages and food insecurity that was worsened by the pandemic, the county legislature will be launching a new Community Recovery Fund Program to provide funding to businesses that struggled over the past year.
The CRFP, written by county Legislators Leslie Schill MRP ’02 (D-Ithaca), Prof. Rich John, law, (D-Ithaca) and Mike Sigler (R-Lansing), will use up to $7 million of the county’s $20 million from the American Rescue Plan to provide grants to help households and local businesses recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
John explained that the idea for a grant program arose from the committee’s desire to avoid difficult reporting requirements associated with using federal money. By allowing individual organizations to apply for funding, the money will be widely distributed across sectors without the need for complex systems to report funding requirements—and several organizations have already expressed interest in applying.
The grant program will be geared towards non-profit organizations including those in childcare, healthcare and emergency services rather than towards for-profit businesses, according to John. Other potential recipients include food pantries, homeless shelters and training programs for emergency workers.
While it’s still developing the application process, the county itself plans to apply for a grant from the program in order to replenish county resources and funds that were used for pandemic response initiatives, according to John.
“We’re still really talking about who’s going to staff the program,” John said. “Then we can start figuring out how to build an application, what the criteria will be, how they’re scored [and] the size of awards we want to make.”
The amount awarded to each organization will be evaluated by a designated committee on a case-by-case basis. Sigler expects applicants to request grants ranging from $100,000 to $2 million.
“Part of the reason we did it this way it was, we wanted to get the money out to the community faster,” Sigler said. “[We] want to get to a place where you know exactly where the money is going.”
The committee aims to roll out the program by Thanksgiving and begin writing checks by March, Sigler said.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to try to do something transformational … that you would never get through the regular budget process,” said John.