A million-dollar grant program using CARES Act funding will aid Summit County families in need | ParkRecord.com

A million-dollar grant program using CARES Act funding will aid Summit County families in need

The Park Record.

A $1 million grant program aimed to help families who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic hopes to get the money to area nonprofits by the end of this year, officials said.

The Park City Community Foundation will administer the program and dole out grants to nonprofits, while the funds come from federal CARES Act disbursements sent to Summit County.

Deputy Summit County Manager Janna Young, who has been coordinating the county’s CARES Act programming, said the county chose the Community Foundation because of its connections in the community.

“We felt they would be able to provide the funds broadly to the needs of our community and, due to their relationships, they would have a good idea of what the needs were,” Young said. “The goal of the program is to provide relief to as many families as we can as quickly as we can.”

Katie Wright, executive director of the Community Foundation, said the initiative will give the area’s nonprofits breathing room to deal with the community’s needs ahead of a winter season that could bring increased hardship.

“I felt an incredible moment of relief because I know that people are having really big challenges in our community, and I think we all know that we’re sort of holding our breath for the flu season,” Wright said, recalling the moment she heard the money would be made available. “We’re constantly measuring the tension between addressing people’s urgent, current needs and also being sure that we can be there for people in January, February, March just like we have been for this summer.”

The Community Foundation has granted around $3 million this year, Wright said, including more than $1.3 million that went to local nonprofits through its Community Response Fund since the pandemic took hold in March. It raised $1 million for that fund in less than a month after COVID hit.

The nonprofit is using a plan that continues through next June to guide its response to the pandemic, and while this money doesn’t alleviate the need to continue fundraising, Wright said it provides meaningful flexibility.

Wright explained that the CARES Act money from the county won’t go directly to individuals, but will instead be granted to nonprofits that serve the people who work and live in Summit County. The advantage of that strategy, she said, is that many local nonprofits already have relationships with people and communities that have been hurt disproportionately by the pandemic.

“There are a lot of people who went from full-time or more than full-time employment to no job, overnight,” Wright said. “… We have nonprofit partners in this community who are deeply connected to our community members. They are very fluent in how to best deliver services, whether they’re health care services, mental health services, child care and education.”

Wright did not rule out the possibility that the nonprofit recipients might dole out direct cash payments to people in need but said offering services would most likely be the focus.

“If an early child care provider ended up a grant recipient, they might not give cash to parents, but they might subsidize parents getting high-quality child care so they can go to work,” Wright said.

The goal is for the Community Foundation to open a grant application window Oct. 14, accompanied by a question-and-answer session for potential applicants two days later. Requests would be due Nov. 10, after which a committee would review the applications and select recipients by Dec. 9 in order to get the money into the community by the end of the year.

Wright said the specifics have not been settled about how applications will be evaluated, nor about who will be on the selection committee. But because of more intensive requirements involved with spending this money and the anticipated month-long application window, Wright expects many compelling applications.

Summit County will pay the foundation $45,000 to administer the program, which is not included in the $1 million total.

The county is slated to receive just under $6 million in total CARES Act funding, though the initial Nov. 30 deadline to spend it has been relaxed. Multiple rule changes have encumbered the process to disseminate the funds, officials have said. To date, the county has pursued projects including hiring 10 short-term employees to establish an in-house contact tracing program, and purchasing personal protective equipment for local businesses and equipment for the hoped-for mass vaccination campaign.

The county has also disseminated federal funds in the form of community development block grants to small businesses with the help of the Mountainland Association of Governments.

County staffers say they do not have the experience or bandwidth to administer grant programs of this magnitude on their own.

Wright indicated that one key focus of the foundation’s pandemic response thus far has been keeping people in their homes.

“The most important form of support that the Community Foundation has been focused on … is rental assistance. At a time when the public health directive is for people to shelter in place or work from home or not congregate in big groups in public, it’s just absolutely critical that people have a home to be in and be safe in,” Wright said. “It’s just important that, at the end of this, families aren’t seeing a mountain of debt because they’ve been forced to delay rent and mortgage payments.”

According to the agreement between the county and the foundation, the grants will be restricted to serving people living or working in Summit County, but Wright pointed out that many of Summit County’s workers cannot afford to live in the area. There is no mandate in the agreement that a nonprofit that receives funding be located in Summit County. Wright also said it will be possible for an educational entity, like a school, to apply for a grant, offering the example of a lunch program.

Wright said the program’s overall goal is to help keep people in the community stable during a challenging time.

“If and when we get on the other end of this as a community, if we know that we were able to put resources to keeping families in their homes, fed, with access to physical and mental health and other key services like child care and education, we will have accomplished a lot as a community,” Wright said. “It’s really important work and we’re really, really pleased the county has stepped up in a generous and proactive way.”

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