Published December 19, 2023 in Guilford Courier
Written by Ben Rayner
On most days, the Guilford Free Library is a quiet and reserved space for patrons to study and read. Last week, however, applause and excitement overtook the bookstacks as The Guilford Foundation (TGF) announced the 34 awardees of $1 million in federal grant monies. The money, appropriated by the town directly to the TGF, is from the town’s share of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and specifically focuses on charities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to TGF Executive Director Liza Petra, “The ARPA Review Committee, comprised of TGF Board Members, community representatives, and a Connecticut-based ARPA expert, established a process, reviewed the applications, and allocated the available funds. It was a thorough and competitive review process.”
According to a statement from the TGF, the Guilford Board of Directors unanimously approved the ARPA Review Committee’s recommendation for 34 grants totaling $1 million, with awards ranging from $5,000 to $75,000.
Guilford was in a unique position in that they could fully control how their ARPA allotment was disbursed, as the town did not fall under the criteria threshold that restricts how the town’s ARPA allotment can be spent, according to First Selectman Matt Hoey.
“We were granted an exemption because the amount of money was underneath the $10 million threshold, so we had complete authority to do pretty much what we wanted with these funds,” said Hoey. “Many of my peers around the state immediately said, ‘We’re going to use this for capital projects,’…but we felt we needed to do something to help the nonprofit sector, who had been devastated during the pandemic by their inability to raise funds, hold events, and to drive more value into the community because they didn’t have the funds to do it.”
Guilford was also unique in that they turned over the allocation process to an outside entity, according to Hoey, rather than trying to dole out the funding themselves. Hoey said that the move saved money, time, and the appearance of any favoritism by partnering with the TGF.
“This could’ve turned into a political nightmare. As a political actor, the thought of saying ‘yes to you’ and ‘no to you’ scared me to death,” said Hoey. “So, the obvious choice was the Guilford Foundation. There is no more trusted organization in town…their integrity is beyond question, their discretion is immaculate, they just do it right all the time, and they really know how to do this,” said Hoey.
Petra said the funding will have an immediate and long-term positive impact in Guilford and across the shoreline, as some organizations receiving funds are not located in Guilford but serve town residents.