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04/25/2023 12:26 PM

Guilford Foundation to Begin ARPA Allocations

More than $500,000 in federal funding made available to the Town through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will soon enter the dispersal process.

The Guilford Foundation (TGF) was selected late last year by the Board of Selectmen (BOS) to act in a supervisory role for dispersing the funds. According to town officials, TGF was determined to be in the best position to understand the process and determine which organizations would benefit from funding.

According to TGF Executive Director Liza Janssen Petra, the nonprofit organization has been carefully crafting its distribution approach to launch an application process in June.

“We plan to have the application and particulars finalized and public by the end of May 2023. We’ll have a grantee workshop in June. The application will be due in September. Decisions will be announced by November,” Janssen Petra said. “If folks have questions in advance, they should contact us, and we’ll be glad to share what we know.”

TGF’s Community Investment Committee, led by Chair Alex Sulpasso, will manage the ARPA awards with the same rigor and transparency used for the Foundation’s competitive grantmaking processes. Sulpasso said TGF wants to ensure the process generates the most significant impact for Guilford residents.

“This is a great opportunity to make key investments in area nonprofit programs and services necessary to help people recover from the pandemic,” explained Sulpasso. “We take this partnership seriously and will leverage our strong relationships with community-serving organizations, understanding of the areas hit hardest by COVID, and extensive funding experience.”

The funding comes as part of the 2020 ARPA legislation designed to provide billions of dollars to communities nationwide as part of pandemic relief efforts. This federal program was intended to address the negative impacts caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency and assist businesses and especially nonprofits, which were hit particularly hard due to the pandemic as donations were virtually nonexistent at the height of the COVID disruptions.

However, the grants have a shelf life and must be distributed by 2026. According to First Selectman Matt Hoey, there are also unique restrictions and aspects of the ARPA funding dispersion that require the experience and knowledge of TGF.

“We wanted to do something that is sustainable and would have a multi-year impact,” said Hoey. “One of the challenges is that these funds have to be expended by 2026. Some of the emerging needs that we’ve heard about and that Liza and I have talked about are daycare needs. There are also emerging needs of our senior population as well. If there is an opportunity for us to identify, through this process, if there are any emerging needs we can address… I am personally committed to evaluate this as we continue through the process.”

In explaining the BOS decision, Hoey cited the benefits of delegating the process to an outside organization, including efficiency and knowledge of which organizations will have the most impact.

“It takes the program’s administration off the back of our staff, which includes design of the criteria for qualifications, the applications, reviews of the applications, that saves man-hours,” Hoey added. “And in my mind’s eye, The Guilford Foundation is one of the most trusted organizations of this type on the shoreline. Their reputation is impeccable, and they have significant experience in assessing the needs of the nonprofits serving Guilford.”

According to Hoey, mitigating any bias in the process was also a key factor in choosing TGF as the funding broker.

“One of the things that we were most concerned about was eliminating any political feature of this,” said Hoey. “The potential politicization of the decision-making process in the distributing of these funds so, it was apparent to me that there was an avenue available to us. We already had a mechanism in place to do this kind of thing and it was the Guilford Foundation.”

Janssen Petra said TGF is working to distribute funds quickly, and the organization encourages all nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to apply for ARPA funding.

“We are honored to have been selected by the town to distribute these ARPA funds that have been allocated and determined by the town that should go to charitable organizations serving our communities,” Janssen Petra said. “As the details emerge, we will proactively communicate our timeline and process for the disbursement of APRA funds. We will encourage all nonprofits negatively impacted by COVID offering services or programs utilized by residents to apply.”