Community groups greedy for federal recovery dollars


SAN ANTONIO – The $326.9 million from the American Rescue Plan Act has hit the city’s financial books, but it has yet to make its way to the dozens of community organizations eagerly awaiting a piece of the windfall unique financial.

The San Antonio City Council is still figuring out how to spend $87.8 million earmarked for areas including the arts, seniors, digital inclusion, mental health and small business. Although the council has separated the money between the different buckets, several subcommittees of the council are responsible for deciding how exactly to distribute it.

They are expected to complete this work by fall 2022, although spending plans for the various areas will be presented as they are completed.

“This is our shot at transformational change. We have to get it right,” District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda said at a council meeting on Tuesday.

In the meantime, there is a clear appetite from community groups to get a piece of the pie. The city received more than $345 million in funding requests, though it did not solicit applications.

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Applications for Morgan’s Wonderland, the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and an early childhood daycare center have been funded, but most have not been as city officials decide the best use of the money.

As council members discussed their priorities on Tuesday before the committees take over, supporters from various organizations filled the audience to watch

A group wearing purple t-shirts showed their quiet support for the East Side-based nonprofit SAGE – or ‘San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside’, which focuses on growing the economy of the region, especially for small businesses.

SAGE has not yet submitted any proposals, but Chairman and CEO Robert Melvin said he plans to try several of the funding compartments.

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“I was impatient before ARPA was even a thing. I was impatient when COVID — before COVID,” Melvin said. to wait, to reflect and to propose another plan, another study.”

The city received nearly $327 million for tax recovery from ARPA, which President Biden signed into law in March 2021, and received half in May 2021. It expects to receive the second half in May. .

Council members have already agreed to spend $97.5 million to cover budget shortfalls and cover what the city called “immediate community needs,” and have invested $30 million to help pay the bills. residents’ overdue public services.

They voted in February on how to spend the remaining $199.4 million, as well as the remaining $13.3 million from the recovery and resilience program. The resulting $212.5 “expenditure framework” included funds for infrastructure, emergency housing and responding to future COVID-19 outbreaks.

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City staff proposal to spend the $199.4 million in ARPA funds and $13.1 million in leftovers from the city’s recovery and resilience plan. The Board passed a similar version with $1.5 million from Digital Access and $2.5 million from the Small Business and Nonprofit Section to create a new $4 million tranche. specifically aimed at non-profit social service organizations.

It also included expenditures of $87.8 million that will be discussed in three board committees: community health, environment and culture; economic development and workforce development; and Public Safety.

Three city council committees will discuss exactly how to use $87.8 million allocated to seven different areas. The goal is to complete their plans by the fall. (City of San Antonio)

Jon Hinojosa, president of arts organization SAY Sí and board member of Culture and Arts United for San Antonio (CAUSA), was also in the audience on Tuesday.

CAUSA, which is made up of local arts organizations, wants the city to split the $5 million earmarked for art into $4 million for talent agencies and $1 million for individual artists, he said. declared, and hopes that the city will do so soon, rather than several more years.

“It’s called the American Recovery Act,” Hinojosa said. “It’s about recovery. It’s not for the future. It’s about recovering from the past two years of our pandemic. As we move into a post-pandemic world, these agencies and organizations need those funds and those dollars now. »

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City officials also pointed out that Bexar County received its own, even larger, allocation of recovery dollars through ARPA that can be used for similar purposes.

And while staff said the city is not yet seeking applications for some of the ARPA money, they urged interested groups to stay engaged in the process.

Melvin said his band is definitely planning on doing it.

We are going to be involved in this process until it is completed, until these funds have been distributed,” he said.

Copyright 2022 by KSAT – All rights reserved.

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