The City of Healdsburg is going to work with Healdsburg Forever and the Healdsburg Healthcare Foundation to identify grantees and a distribution process for a one-time community response grant program funded by $200,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
On Nov. 1 during its regular meeting, the Healdsburg City Council gave the OK for the city to partner with Healdsburg Forever and the healthcare foundation for the community response grant program.
“As part of our recent budget adjustments, one thing that the city council approved in the current year’s budget is a $200,000 allocation for community response grants. That was described at the time as grants for community organizations that are helping us in our general response to COVID both in terms of the medical health emergency and the economic impacts as well,” said Healdsburg City Manager Jeff Kay.
At the time, they also talked about partnering with the Healdsburg Healthcare Foundation and Healdsburg Forever.
“We have organizations here in town who are skilled, effective and knowledgeable when it comes to administering grant programs and getting money out to nonprofits in a way that is efficient and effective,” Kay said.
He said partnering with Healdsburg Forever and the health care foundation also has the benefit of getting funds out quickly to nonprofits in need.
The organizations’ recommended approach is to issue four to five large grants with an emphasis on maintaining the scale of essential services. The grant process will be invitational rather than competitive with requests for proposals.
“We’re looking of course at the most significant community needs and what is the current funding situation,” said Dave Ring of Healdsburg Forever. “And that’s important because at this point in the pandemic, some areas, like in- school programs and vaccination efforts, for example, are pretty well-funded while other areas of perhaps equal importance are struggling much more to find resources.”
Ring said they interviewed and researched 17 different nonprofits and found that their common needs are food-related assistance, medical/mental health, financial assistance and child care.
Ring said while the need is there to address affordable housing, it would be difficult to make a significant impact with the funds they have.
“We’re focusing on the other areas of economic stabilization in terms of trying to find the best opportunities for nonprofits,” he said.
Kim Bender, the executive director of Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County, said they want to implement an invitational grant process for several reasons, namely for streamlining the process.
“We really looked at whether invitational versus a competitive process would be better for this amount of money and considered the fact that a competitive process would require setting up a request for proposals (RFP), which in and of itself might take a month more, advertising that and putting together a review committee. Giving the organization’s time to put those proposals together would all take three or four months,” Bender said.
She said considering their experience with RFPs and the amount of grants they have to disperse, they believe they’d receive between 20 to 30 proposals, so only about 15 to 20% of the applicants would be successful in obtaining a grant.
Councilmember Ariel Kelley agreed with the idea of wanting to get the funds out quickly.
“As City Manager Kay mentioned, there are certain things in the ARPA funds that are going to take a considerable amount of time for us to deploy and actually be felt in the community and I think this truly is one of those areas where relief and support can be given swiftly,” Kelley said.
Kelley added that she would like to see how the funds are going to be used by each grantee. Ring said they could invite the grantees to a council meeting to come and give a presentation on the topic.
One resident who spoke during public comment opined that the grant process should be competitive rather than invitational.
“I think that we need to go to the RFP process. The invitational process, while it may streamline the actual distribution of funds, has the potential to smack favoritism to the general public,” said resident Charles Duffy. “Setting out a request for proposals can be set very narrowly so you’re reaching the same group of nonprofits that you want to target and you’re making it an open process. I would strongly urge the council to accept that as the way to go.”
Yet, Healdsburg Mayor Evelyn Mitchell agreed with the organizations’ recommended approach and the idea to have the grant process be invitational.
“We need to get the money out there, it’s not doing any good sitting in the bank … I understand the comment about the RFP being more transparent, but I also appreciate the knowledge and skill set that you both (Ring and Bender) bring to this process and I trust that you will reach out to the right organizations and give everybody the opportunity, so I’m certainly in favor of the proposal as is,” Mitchell said.
Next steps for community response grants
Ring and Bender will narrow down the list of proposed organization grantees and dollar amounts, issue a short application to minimize grantee time and work, and receive and review applications. They will then present grantee recommendations to the city council for funding approval in December.
According to the agenda item report, grant recipients would be notified and funds would be distributed by approximately the end of the year, or by early January.