Washington County sees three requests for covid relief money in September; the deadline to apply is October 31

FAYETTEVILLE — More than a month after the county began accepting applications, only three local nonprofit groups have applied to Washington County for federal U.S. Rescue Plan Act money.

Partners for Better Housing asked for $502,760, Welcome Health asked for $100,000 and Magdalene Serenity House asked for $33,436, according to Brandi Wilhite, the county’s relief fund administrator.

The county announced in late August that it would set aside about $2.3 million of the $46 million in relief for local nonprofits. The county will accept applications through Oct. 31, then work with the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District in Harrison to review applications to see if they meet federal guidelines. The county will pay the district from $10,000 to $35,000, depending on the number of applications received and reviewed.

After the review, the Quorum Court will receive reports on the applications, and the justices of the peace will decide in early 2023 whether to fund the applications.

The lack of an application process was a bone of contention for some nonprofit groups who noted that the Court of Quorum awarded money to some groups without any process in place to accept and assess applications. The county allocated about $2.9 million to Upskill NWA for a skills training program to address shortages of skilled healthcare workers and an additional $315,000 to Returning Home, a nonprofit group. of Springdale helping incarcerated men reintegrate into the community.

April Bachrodt, executive director of Magdalene Serenity House, said she applied without any guidance from the county on minimum or maximum money requests.

“We have decided to apply for funding to cover part of the annual cost of housing our eight wives under our two-year program,” Bachrodt said. “We didn’t feel comfortable asking for a large sum, so we tried to come up with an amount that I thought was very reasonable.”

Magdalene Serenity House offers women who have experienced trauma, sexual exploitation and substance abuse and who have been incarcerated a structured two-year residential program, which houses up to eight women at a time.

Residents receive comprehensive services to meet their mental and physical health needs, including: counselling, medical and dental care, assistance with claiming benefits, preparation for employment and education, advocacy and life skills training.

Brittney Gulley, director of development at Welcome Health, said she learned money might be available from a newspaper article. Welcome Health was founded in 1986 by Jessie Bryant as a free health center in northwest Arkansas to provide medical and dental care to low-income or uninsured residents of the area, according to the website of the clinical.

Gulley said the effects of the covid-19 pandemic have definitely hit the clinic.

“We could see a shift in how we operate,” Gulley said. “At first the numbers were quite low. Then our numbers started to increase as people found themselves without jobs or without insurance.”

Gulley said the clinic has an annual budget of about $500,000 and relies heavily on grants, as well as donations from individuals, churches and civic groups, and local fundraising efforts. In 2021, the clinic provided over 12,000 free services to over 2,400 patients. The $100,000 would cover the cost of providing about 2,400 services to 480 patients, she said.

Monique Jones of Partners for Better Housing said the group works to help workers access the domestic market. She said the cost of construction has gone up, the cost of homes in northwest Arkansas has doubled or tripled. The $502,000 requested by the group would be used to pay for education programs and initial payments for those who qualify. The group also plans to offer programs to help seniors stay in their homes.

“We try to make sure these people are taken care of,” she said.

District 12 Justice of the Peace Evelyn Rios Stafford said the county should do more to publicize the availability of federal aid money and to help people navigate the application process. She said the county should use social media, have program information translated into Spanish and Marshallese to reach people in those communities, and do more to try to actively reach people through media and meetings. public.

“Some of those basic elements of communications strategy would go a long way,” Stafford said.

In Benton County, the Quorum Court spent or committed about $45.5 million of the $54 million the county received from the federal government in U.S. bailout money, according to county records.

In August 2021, Benton County asked organizations to apply for economic recovery assistance under the U.S. bailout. The organizations presented proposals to the US Bailout Committee – made up of the 15 members of the Quorum Court – from January to March. Members of the Court of Quorum based approvals on established federal criteria for bailout projects and considered whether the proposals would have a positive impact on the community, according to a statement.

The county received 38 applications from nonprofit groups. Benton County nonprofit groups’ requests totaled about $24.8 million, and the county awarded 19 groups about $4.9 million, according to County Comptroller Brenda Peacock.