In Franklin County, dozens of nonprofits are working diligently to make sure neighborhoods across the city have the resources they need.
Whether it’s providing meals through local food banks, creating after-school programs for students, or creating centers for those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, these organizations are making a difference in the area of education. capital city.
But not all of them receive county funding. Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady said the choice was difficult.
With the number of nonprofits applying for funding each year, O’Grady said he and Commissioners Kevin Boyce and Marilyn Brown relied heavily on county agencies to review funding requests before making a decision. final.
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Through the Department of Employment and Family Services, Justice Policy and Programs, Children’s Services and other agencies, the county is able to help families in need, prevent child abuse and neglect, encourage access to health care and reduce juvenile health and behavioral problems – as well as other services.
The commission itself also administers and coordinates a few grants, such as the Community Partnerships and Resilience Initiative grants, which provide assisted funding for personal protective equipment, programs and lost income and unforeseen expenses. supported by non-profit and community groups.
In making those decisions, O’Grady said the council’s goal is to ensure these programs are in line with the county’s Rise Together plan for poverty reduction.
This initiative highlights 13 broad goals and 120 specific action steps that are used as a barometer to support underserved communities and reduce poverty levels in Franklin County.
In developing the master plan, Employment and Family Services workers spoke to more than 200 families living in poverty to discuss the programs they needed to improve their conditions.
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“Vulnerable populations really matter,” said O’Grady. “So the plan is definitely at the top of my fundraising list. “
The commissioners also assess the sustainability of the organizations themselves. County funds cannot be seen as a lifeline for nonprofit groups, O’Grady said.
“We don’t have enough money to be able to finance all of them,” he said. “You have to do a great job of figuring out which ones have a big impact and have good business models. “
Marilyn Mehaffie, executive director of St. Stephen’s Community House, said the commissioners have continuously supported the organization. According to tax filing documents, the nonprofit received $ 2,765,400 in county funding between 2018 and 2019.
“We have had a very good relationship with the county,” she said. “They seem to fund things that are very much needed in the community, especially for us when it comes to youth programs. “
These services have been vitally important amid the COVID-19 outbreak, which has resulted in unprecedented job losses and an overwhelming demand for assisted funding.
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The county has allocated $ 20.9 million to support programs like Community Partnership Grants and others that have grown since March. And in June, Franklin County and the City of Columbus announced Resilience Initiative grants, which provided combined $ 20 million in CARES Act funding to social service organizations.
But due to the demand for funding, which was more than four times what was available, the selection committee limited the selection of agencies. The county and city have restricted applicants to those serving key service areas: homelessness, food, violence, drug addiction and other related areas.
Mehaffie said the county has ensured that St. Stephens and other organizations receive enough relief funds to continue their programs and develop new ones focused on COVID-19 restrictions.
“They have rules and regulations,” she said. “But they help fund these programs to better serve the children who make up these communities.”
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The community center was able to run its summer science program in person, as the county helped provide PPE and developed a framework for social distancing, Mehaffie said.
Despite this support, Michael Corey, executive director of the County Human Service Chamber, which represents 102 local nonprofit groups, said there are organizations whose needs are still unmet. This is not because of a lack of benevolence or prioritization at the local level, but because their needs are far greater than what is available.
Federal support is running out quickly, he said.
“There is enormous concern that without a new federal stimulus package, the nonprofit sector and the social safety net it creates in partnership with our local government agencies, our philanthropic partners and our health systems, will be in a very precarious state when our community needs these agencies the most, ”said Corey.