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$19 million in funding now available to nonprofits

Mark Parker

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Duggan Cooley, CEO of the Pinellas Community Foundation, said the new funding could propel the community as it emerges from the pandemic. Photo provided.

Pinellas County nonprofits negatively impacted by the pandemic and seeking to expand services and upgrade facilities now have a new potential funding resource.

On Aug. 8, the Pinellas Community Foundation (PCF), in collaboration with the county, opened the application portal for the new ARPA Nonprofit Capital Project Fund. County commissioners recently approved a $19 million investment from American Rescue Plan Act funding to support the program.

PCF is distributing grants through multiple competitive cycles, and organizations can apply to the first round until Sept. 8. Those awarded can use the money for both small and large-scale capital needs. The program prioritizes projects and purchases for applicants with leadership and clients from underrepresented communities.

“I think it’s a very exciting opportunity,” said Duggan Cooley, CEO of PCF. “It’s also challenging because there are going to be so many requests from organizations.”

Cooley explained that there is a broad need throughout the community after two years of Covid disruptions. When establishing program parameters, the county commission made it clear, he said, that it should include more than just social services.

For example, he said arts, culture and environmental organizations also suffered greatly. He also noted the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on nonprofits serving marginalized populations.

The program’s website states that following U.S. Treasury guidance and an Executive Order, its “priority populations” include members of racial and religious minorities, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities and those affected by persistent poverty. However, not aligning with one of those groups does not disqualify an organization from applying.

“So, I think there is a focus on making sure that these capital projects can also be invested in turning the tide on some of the disproportionate investment in the community,” said Cooley. “How does your organization and the specific project you’re asking for help address challenges our community faces with respect to equity.”

Another key aspect of the application process, said Cooley, is describing how the funding would mitigate economic harm directly resulting from the pandemic. He explained that could include cancellation of fundraisers, an inability to interact with donors and supporters or an exponential increase in community need.

Cooley called local food banks and pantries a good example of the latter. He said those organizations received a high level of support through Covid and were innovative in how they conducted their work – but the number of people seeking help “skyrocketed” and outpaced the additional donations.

While there is no stipulation as to the size or expense of capital projects nonprofits can apply for, Cooley believes the county was interested in funding initiatives that can have a lasting impact.

“Now is the time to invest in their capital needs, so they can further strengthen our community,” said Commission Chair Charlie Justice in a statement. “Especially our most vulnerable residents.”

The pandemic, said Cooley, held the community back for two years and forced organizations to hit the pause button on investments in capital projects. He also said many nonprofits went without the technology needed to interact with people in a new and safer way.

Cooley said the ARPA Nonprofit Capital Fund has the opportunity to push his organization and the nonprofits it serves forward five years – and beyond.

“I think the community as a whole benefits from this investment,” added Cooley.

In 2020, Pinellas County and PCF collaborated on a similar program, the Pinellas CARES Nonprofit Partnership Fund. PCF administered $17 million CARES Act grants to organizations that supply food services, behavioral health programs and legal aid for housing.

According to its website, PCF, created in 1969, holds millions of dollars in assets invested for the community’s benefit. To date, it has distributed over $95 million in donor-funded grants to support more than 400 charities.

For more information on the ARPA Nonprofit Capital Project Fund, visit the website here.

 

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