Article written by Tim Leininger, CT Examiner
The Guilford Foundation has been granted an additional $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to assist local nonprofits, bringing the total allocated by the town to the organization to $1 million.
First Selectman Matthew Hoey said on Tuesday that the town had received $6.5 million in ARPA funding from the federal government. About $4 million has already been allocated, including $500,000 to the Guilford Foundation in November.
The Board of Selectman unanimously approved allocating an additional $500,000 earlier this month to the foundation, which supports various nonprofits in the Guilford area.
Hoey said that interested nonprofits should apply for COVID relief through the foundation instead of the town to insulate the money from politics.
“They are technically referred to as a subrecipient,” Hoey said of the foundation. “The funds will be allocated based on the program that the Guilford Foundation has designed to address specifically to COVID impacts.”
After attending a Guilford Foundation meeting with representatives from nonprofits that could benefit from ARPA relief, he said, it became apparent that the initial $500,000 wasn’t going to be enough.
“Those impacts were long term,” Hoey said. “It’s a way to recoup and rebuild some of the resources lost in that time.”
The only other nonprofit to receive ARPA money was the Guilford Performing Arts Festival, which received $5,000 in 2021.
“They got their butt kicked in 2021 in terms of fundraising and number of venues and performances that could be had,” Hoey said. “That’s the only one we had done. We were working side by side with them to make sure the program went off.”
Aside from the arts festival, Hoey said the board didn’t want to rush to decide who would receive money. Instead, the town hired George Krivda as an outside consultant for relief spending, and ultimately chose to use Guilford Foundation as a conduit for distributing ARPA funds to nonprofits.
“The Guilford Foundation is one of the trusted organizations on the shoreline in assessing the needs of nonprofits in Guilford,” he said. “They were instrumental in getting COVID relief funding to individuals and families. In my mind’s eye, there’s no more trusted organization.”
It took time for the foundation to become comfortable with assisting in the efforts, he added.
“The town had a great handle on businesses and economic developments, social services and family services,” said Liza Janssen Petra, executive director of the Guilford Foundation. “What Matt did, he recognized the impact on nonprofits. They make up about 11 percent of the economy. Nonprofits were detrimentally impacted. … The Guilford Foundation has deep experience with our nonprofit organizations and reviewing applications for funding. He turned to us.”
The $1 million must be used by the end of 2026, and will remain separate from the $6.2 million in endowment the foundation currently has on hand. The town will hold onto the ARPA money until the foundation gathers requests from the nonprofits, Petra said.
“The applications are due Sept. 8, and we’re probably going to be making our decisions by the end of November,” she said. “When we have our decisions, we will then request the funds from the town.
She noted that none of the money comes from municipal tax dollars and cannot be refunded by the town to taxpayers.
“If the federal government were to claw back this money, it wouldn’t go back to the community,” she said.
As for which nonprofits would get a share of the $1 million, Petra said an organization that has shown a negative impact from COVID should apply.
“We recognized that this was a once-in-a-generation opportunity for funding,” she said. “We’ve designed the parameters for the funding to be either, tell us what impact COVID had on you or talk to us about a one-time project expense.”
The foundation aims to have a plan for allocating all the funds by Dec. 31, 2024.
“We’ve been trying to publicize this to our organizations,” Petra said. “The interest in the funds have been high.”
So far, organizations like the YMCA, the Guilford ABC program, the Guilford Interfaith Volunteers and others have shared their experiences with COVID to the foundation.
“As we were crafting and creating the process to distribute the funds, we wanted to hear from them first,” Petra said.
As long as the nonprofit serves the Guilford community – even if it’s located out of town, like the Community Dining Room in Branford which serves Guilford – she said, it can apply for support.
Petra said she expects there to be about 50 applications submitted by the deadline, more than what the foundation usually gets during its annual competitive grant-making process.
“We’ve had interest from organizations we’ve never heard from before,” she said. “It’s a nice thing to have this opportunity. We’re hopeful this opportunity brings other organizations into our sphere.”
There is currently no cap set as to how much a nonprofit can request.
“We have a close relationship with most of the organizations,” Petra said. “It’s natural for organizations to inflate their requests. In our experience, we say you can apply for up to $25,000, everyone is going to apply for $25,000. Some organizations are small and don’t need that funding, and other organizations need a lot more than that. It’s in our best interest and in their best interest to be honest about what’s happening, because we have a history with them.”