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Commissioners approve funding help for non-profits

Nicole Jordan

A small group of Athens area non-profits will be getting a financial boost from ACC commissioners for youth development programs, after expected federal funding fell short of the mark.

That federal funding comes from Community Development Block Grants, or CDBGs. Mayor Kelly Girtz explained the situation at a meeting this week.

"It is often the case that the anticipated dollar value of the Community Development Block Grant program from the federal government is somewhat different than the actual dollar amount that lands here in Athens, Clarke County, or in any community," Girtz said.

In this case, that CDBG funding was less than expected. To make up for it, commissioners will dip into a different pot of federal money, funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA. Initially, commissioners wanted to use those ARPA funds to support two programs left out of the CDBG process at 60% of their request, but the plan quickly grew in scope to a proposal that would fully fund four youth development programs that were set to receive no ARPA funding.

Commissioner Jesse Houle from the 6th District had concerns about the last-minute timing of the new proposal.

"I'm always a cautious of us, just on the last minute, especially with financial decisions, kind of doing something on the fly," Houle said. "So I'm gonna have to sit with this one for a second before I know I'm going to vote."

Houle also suggested that using ARPA funds, which will dry up in the coming years, would leave non-profits scrambling to replace the APRA dollars when they run out.

"Unlike this year, there won't be any ARPA left. This is the last year we can allocate any ARPA money to anything," they said.

But, Commissioner Melissa Link countered, there is more than $3 million available from ARPA funds for youth development and the fact that they have to be allocated before the end of the year is why the proposal should go forward.

"We want to assure that it does get allocated in this community," Link said. "And we're going to have to have some very tough conversations next year about how these programs persist. And I want to encourage the folks who run them to start seeking other funding sources."

Link also noted that some of the funding would go towards programs operating this summer, adding additional urgency to the matter.

In all, the measure would spend about $101,000 of ARPA funding. Commissioners voted 8-1 to move ahead with the plan, with Houle voting against it.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.