By Tom Travis
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include information about a webinar provided by the City of Flint on Feb. 2 for those wishing to apply for an ARPA Community Grant.
The City of Flint has allocated $15.6 million of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for Community Grants. Applications are open now for eligible organizations to compete for funds to serve Flint residents in three priority program areas: housing and blight elimination, public health, and economic development.
Mayor says 40 per cent of the ARPA money is already spent
At a press conference Monday announcing the details of the community grants program, Mayor Sheldon Neeley said 40 per cent of the ARPA funds granted to the city have already been spent. A total of $94.7 million was awarded under the federal aid program designed to help the nation recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The $15.6 million allocated for community grants will assist eligible nonprofits, businesses, and community-based organizations in administering programs such as home repair and improvement, or youth job training for Flint residents, and would be widely publicized to ensure they are accessible.
Neeley said the City of Flint will identify Flint-based organizations who have subject matter expertise, as well as the capacity and experience to deliver services to Flint residents equitably.
Official information about the ARPA Community Grant Program application is available at cityofflint.com/ARPA. Residents are encouraged to visit the website to learn more about it.
The City of Flint administration developed the official ARPA community grant application alongside many partners, including compliance consultants Ernst & Young, city council members, and philanthropic partners who have provided technical assistance, Neeley said.
In addition to the community grants portion of the $15.6 million, economic development grant programs will be forthcoming, Neeley said.
Neeley was joined at the press conference on the grants program by the City’s Chief Financial Officer, Rob Widigan; Chief Resilience Officer Lottie Ferguson; and representing City Council, Councilperson Ladel Lewis (Ward 2).
Webinar for applicants to the ARPA Community Grant program
The city announced it will host a webinar to orient prospective applicants to the ARPA Community Grant Programs application, Thursday, February 2, 2 to 3:30 p.m. The webinar is free and open to the community and will include simultaneous Spanish and American Sign Language interpretation.
Participants must register in advance for this webinar:
After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
City staff and representatives from the city’s compliance firm Ernst Young will present an overview of each grant program opportunity, the scoring rubric for funding decisions, grantee responsibilities, and how to use the Flint grants website.
The presentation will conclude with 30 minutes for questions and answers. The webinar will be recorded and posted on the city’s ARPA webpage (www.cityofflint.com/arpa) so that prospective applicants can continue to refer to it.
Assistance to help non-profits, businesses and community-basked organizations
In addition to this webinar, technical assistance providers can help nonprofits, businesses, and community-based organizations interested in applying for funds. Technical assistance providers are available to answer general questions and interpret requirements, provide support with project concept and budget development, offer assistance with accessing the application system, and coordinate with the city of Flint for financial and reporting compliance questions.
Prospective applicants can contact technical assistance providers for assistance, free of charge:
Flint Innovative Solutions
Neighborhood Engagement Hub
North Flint Neighborhood Action Council
The Power Initiative
Social Impact Philanthropy & Investment (SIPI)
City Council discuss the administrations ARPA Community Grant program
Later that evening the City Council met for their regularly scheduled meeting. Among their agenda items was a presentation on the Community Grants program by Lottie Ferguson. No action was required by city council concerning the ARPA Community Grant program as they had already approved the ARPA funds in a Dec. 2022.
Councilperson Dennis Pfeiffer (Ward 8) tersely noted to Ferguson, “I’m not pleased with the application.” Pfeiffer implied the application process was complicated due to the fact an account has to be created.
Pfeiffer blasted several questions to Ferguson. “It’s not full transparency,” he said. “Who is being invited? What type of programs outside of the main bullet points are included? … Until this gets full transparency I’m not voting for any of this back door stuff.”
Ferguson assured the council that five agencies are readily available to assist potential applicants, including navigating the application process and gathering correct documents and tax forms.
“This is not our job to micromanage this money” – Judy Priestley
Councilperson Judy Priestley (Ward 4), responding to her colleagues and members of the public, noted, “This is not our [city council] job to micromanage this money [the ARPA funds]. We are lucky to be at the table [to discuss the ARPA funds].”
Councilperson Pfeiffer retorted, “We, as a body, have fiduciary responsibility. To say we are lucky to have a seat at the table, we absolutely should be at the table.”
A point of contention with some council members was that the ARPA Community Grant program allows only for organizations and businesses — but not individuals — to apply. Councilmembers asked for some of the ARPA money to be used for individual home repair.
But Ferguson explained it is not possible for the city to disburse funds directly to residents. Rather, she offered, the city is looking for local organizations and businesses that can act as a fiduciary to disburse the funds for individual home repairs, i.e., Habitat for Humanity or the United Way.
A heated debate lasted for well over an hour. At one point, Councilpersons Eric Mays (Ward 1) and Pfeiffer (Ward 8) left their seats for several minutes to speak privately off to the side of council chambers.
Dysfunction, racial slurs and name calling
The debate of the ARPA Community Grant program took place during the Special Affairs Committee meeting beginning at 4:30 p.m. chaired by Councilperson Ladel Lewis (Ward 2).
The meeting gradually spiraled out of control and didn’t end until well after 11 p.m. Toward the end of the evening racial slurs, accusations, indecorous behavior called out by other council members including several moments of audience members shouting out to council. Councilperson Eric Mays was warned twice by the Committee Chairperson Lewis for using racial slurs including “handkerchief head Negro.”
Following the six-and-a-half-hour Special Affairs Committee meeting and a brief recess, the City Council met as a whole and quickly discussed and passed a master resolution and several appointments. Councilperson Mays returned toward the end and attempted to discuss a remaining resolution and another council member promptly moved to adjourn at 11:40 p.m. The meeting had begun at 4 p.m.
Here is an overview of appointments and resolutions that were passed in Monday’s meeting. An agenda can be read below or online at this link.
- Enrique Rodriguez appointed to the Ethics and Accountability Board to finish a three-year term expiring in June 2026.
- Geraldine Redmon appointed to the Flint Housing Commission to complete a five-year term expiring in August 2027.
- Dr. Beverly Walker-Griffea appointed to the Bishop International Airport Authority for a three-year term expiring in January 2026.
- Sharon Reeves appointed to Mass Transportation Authority for a two-year term expiring in March 2025.
- Rodney Lontine appointed to Downtown Development Authority Board for a four-year term expiring in June 2027.
- Kristin Stevenson appointed to Building Codes Board of Appeals for a one-year term expiring in January 2024.
There were seven resolutions passed. The full agenda can be viewed below.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.