What's at stake:
Fresno County's well of pandemic relief dollars through the federal American Rescue Plan Act program has run dry. The county recieved 42 applications for $4.2 million in funding. Only 10 were accepted.
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors allocated the last of its federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, doling out $4.2 million in pandemic relief funds between 10 local organizations.
The county supervisors received 42 applications for the remaining $4.2 million and, on Tuesday, formally denied 32 of them.
The most expensive of the 10 accepted applications for round two ARPA funding includes $1.5 million to the Poverello House, $573,200 to Habitat for Humanity’s Fresno branch, and $500,000 to the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation.
Rejections included the Fresno County Fire Protection District, Malaga County Water District, and Fresno Mission and four applications from the county’s Public Works and Planning Department.
The county staff recommendation to accept 10 applications came from a county review panel consisting of County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland and three county staffers.
They met twice in February and once in April to select applications for funding by weighing each for eligibility and how they align with the county’s ARPA guiding principles and goals, said county spokesperson Sonja Dosti over email.
In total, Fresno County received $194 million in ARPA funds from the federal government. The county either used the money itself or officials distributed it to local organizations and governments.
Fresno County’s distribution of ARPA funding faced scrutiny earlier this year when a Fresnoland investigation examined why the annual Clovis Rodeo received $200,000 in pandemic relief funds from Fresno County.
Fresnoland found that county staff did not distribute ARPA dollars based on which organizations needed it most, nor did they assess whether organizations needed funding to stay afloat.
The Clovis Rodeo again applied for relief money through the county’s second round of ARPA funding — this time asking for $150,000 — but it was one of the many organizations turned away.
County officials say needs outnumber available funds
Michael Sigala, the president of a nonprofit that operates a Clovis-based senior assisted living center, asked the supervisors during the Aug. 22 supervisors meeting to think of seniors hardest hit by COVID-19 when deciding how to spend pandemic relief dollars.
"When I saw things like playground equipment, vans, and stuff like that getting funded, I had to speak up on behalf of the very low-income seniors that we serve — a very large and growing segment of the population," Sigala said to the Fresno County Supervisors during public comment on Tuesday.
Magnolia Crossing, LLC — the senior living center that Sigala's nonprofit operates — applied for $563,977, but was ultimately rejected.
Nerland confirmed that Tuesday's vote marked the last of Fresno County's ARPA funds meant for distributing to organizations.
Nerland added that Fresno County's needs are greater than available funds. Supervisor Brian Pacheco echoed the sentiment, adding that ARPA alone cannot solve the range of issues that need to be addressed in Fresno County.
"There are several groups that come before this board that say we don't do enough for the youth and for the parks," Pacheco said at the supervisor's meeting. "I think staff did a very good job with spreading the money out between districts in the county, and there are simply more needs than there are funds."