City staff recommends $2.88 million in community ARPA grant funding

City Commissioners will take their first look at the staff funding recommendations for community grants through the city’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation of COVID relief funds during a special Nov. 17 meeting.

Applications were due July 15 and the city received 34 applications that total $10,464,425.81.

Internal scoring of community ARPA grant applications underway

Tom Hazen, the city’s grant administrator, began reviewing the applications for completeness and eligibility over the summer.

City beginning review of ARPA applications from community agencies

He told commissioners during their Sept. 6 meeting that eight applications were removed from consideration because they didn’t meet the minimum requirements under the city’s guidelines.

According to his presentation for the Nov.17 special meeting, 10 applications were deemed ineligible and were not scored.

The city received $19.47 million in ARPA funds, which are COVID relief funds. Those funds carry more detailed rules on eligible uses and deadlines for expenditure.

City caps ARPA funds at $3 million for community grants

Hazen said that the internal staff committee began their review and evaluation of the remaining applications on Aug. 16 and is now recommending to commissioners to fund 14 projects totaling $2,884,557.

Once the committee ranked the project proposals, they started at the top and worked their way down until the $3 million cap was exhausted for their recommendation to the commission.

City considering improvements to GFPD, GFFR; public safety levy

In May, commissioners decided to cap the ARPA funds for community grants at $3 million.

City finalizing plans for use of ARPA funds; beginning discussion of public safety levy

The staff review committee used the scoring sheet that commissioners approved and was included in the application that was published in February.

Staff is recommending funding for the following projects, according to a Nov. 7 memo from Hazen to commissioners:

  • Alliance for Youth: $287,278 for improving mental health and reducing violence by strengthening parent-child relationships, funds will be used to enact evidence-based practices at the Alliance for Youth headquarters including parent mediation, nurturing parenting, circle of parents, youth mental health first aid, and question, persuade and refer. This program is designed to directly address abuse in our community and is anticipated to benefit hundreds of residents.
  • Cascade County Historical Society:  $56,595 for technology upgrades to Ozark Club at The History Museum, funds will be used to install hardware increasing the remote gathering capacity of the museum. This will mitigate current and future health concerns and allow for remote participation in museum special events.
  • Discovery Family Counseling Services: $49,000.00 for expansion of services, funds will be used to expand the mental health therapy services available for children as young as three years old. Specifically, Discovery will implement programs designed to treat behavioral health concerns in youth through “play therapy.” Additionally, Discovery will remodel a portion of its building to be used for this specific purpose.
  • Great Falls Voyagers: $600,000 for Centene Stadium field repair, funds will be used to make repairs to the playing surface. This will ensure the ongoing viability of a facility that is used by professional, amateur, and local school teams. Also, maintains a valuable tourism draw and local business partner in the Great Falls community.
  • Great Falls College Montana State University: $197,350 for job training and education for at-risk youth, funds will be used to initiate a new program that will provide job training to at-risk youth ages 16 and older and those re-entering the work force. The training framework will focus on education, construction training, work ethic/job readiness training, leadership/community service, and case management/career development.
  • Great Falls Scottish Rite Childhood Language Disorders Clinic: $70,894 for early intervention speech/language/feeding outreach support, this program will reduce barriers preventing children from accessing therapy by providing speech/language/feeding therapy on site in daycare centers, homes, or other youth focused locations. This will alleviate barriers arising from transportation limitations or work schedule conflicts.
  • Great Falls Tourism Business Improvement District: $215,000 for development of a tourism master plan, this plan will utilize assessments conducted by professional consultants to evaluate Great Falls’ current and potential status as a tourism destination. The plan will serve as the foundation for short and long term strategies for marketing and increasing the appeal of Great Falls to visitors. This project was not awarded full requested amount.
  • Helping Hands: $49,900 for operation of a food pantry downtown, providing food, hygienic items, and clothing to individuals facing financial hardship. These funds will bolster the in-place budget.
  • Ideal Option: $228,980 for increasing access to medication assisted treatment (MAT), Ideal Options offers substance use disorder treatment in Great Falls. Ideal Option is looking to increase access in the city by opening a second location. These funds will be used to offset the expenses incurred in the first six months of this new location.
  • NeighborWorks Great Falls: $496,810 for increased owner-built home, or mutual self-help program, operations, this award will allow for increased and future-looking operations associated with the MSHP. These new activities will include development of a master plan, compilation/submission of required filings, and engineering documents. These funds will contribute to the eventual construction of 100 new homes. The proposed development is located at the 33rd Avenue South and 13th Street South.
  • Opportunities Inc.: $97,750 for mitigation improvements to facility, social distancing considerations rendered the small Opportunities Inc. headquarters waiting room inoperable during the pandemic. Individuals seeking assistance were asked to leave and return later. Financial and transportation limitations made multiple trips to the office unfeasible for many seeking services. These funds will be used to expand the area and create a safer and healthier environment for people waiting for appointments.
  • Peace Place: $375,000 for building renovation, Peace Place is looking to renovate its new location to create an ideal environment to provide childcare, caregiver support, and respite services. This award will fund the renovation of an existing (and currently empty) downtown location to include classrooms, rest rooms, offices, a kitchen, and other faculties as needed.
  • United Way: $85,000 for early education assistance, funds will be used to coordinate the availability of early childhood education, bridging gaps for children through kindergarten enrollment, and increasing access for underserved populations in conjunction with Great Falls Public Schools.
  • YWCA: $75,000 for rental assistance, the YWCA will use the funds to provide low to moderate income women the financial resources to place first/last month deposits when entering into a new rental agreement. This will assist women in establishing secure homes for their families and simultaneously address homelessness in the city.

City still working on plans for use of $19.47 million in ARPA funds; process for community grants

Commissioners will review the staff recommendations during their special Nov. 17 work session but are not scheduled to vote on the proposed funding allocations during the meeting.