Grant Programs Seek Nearly $8 Mill in New Budget

Tuesday, 7 Jun 2011, 12:48:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

The Santa Monica City Council heard budget presentations from every department during its three-day workshop at City Hall last week, wrapping up the discussions with a pair of grant funding recommendations for a proposed Human Services Grants (HSG) program for fiscal year 2011-15, and the Organizational Support Program (OSP) Grants for Arts and Culture Nonprofits for fiscal year 2011-13.

While the council took no action – the grant funding recommendation was part of the larger budget presentations and will be fully considered by the council when it ultimately decides on the City’s biennial budget on June 21. During this discussion, the council heard a case to approve more than $7.4 million in funding for the HSG program and about $244,000 for OSP grants.

“The Human Service Grant Program … is intended to really develop, fund, and sustain human service organizations and increase the effectiveness of those single organizations and their impact by cultivating a safety net for our community,” Julie Rusk, the City’s human services manager, told the council. “Strong nonprofits that are linked to neighborhoods or to other public institutions are really at the core of that safety net.”

Rusk added the HSG program is recommending about $7.4 million to be awarded to 24 nonprofit agencies supporting 40 different programs for fiscal year 2011-12, and potentially through fiscal year 2014-15. Rusk said the plan also calls for “an increased use of data and program evaluations to capture trends and keep organizations accountable.”

“The purpose of this funding is not solely to support specific agencies and their programs, but it’s really to ensure as a whole we have an effective safety net and that our community has initiatives that are focused on prevention and early intervention,” Rusk said. “We’re working closely with all the nonprofits to make sure they have the resources and the support they need to function effectively (such as the Pico Youth and Family Center).”

Both the HSG program and the OSP grants allow the City to establish relations with local nonprofit community agencies “to offer programs and services that improve the quality of life for residents.” To achieve that, the council approved the Community Development (CD) Grant Program and the Cultural/Art Organizational Support Program Funding Rationale in January. Accordingly, City staff has a series of funding guidelines and selection criteria to rely upon when making determinations of which agencies to subsidize. Also, the council’s action in January “authorized staff to release Request for Proposals (RFP) for the next multi-year grant funding cycles.”

“Each of the funded organizations will be required to provide services which align closely with City goals and plans,” Rusk said. “Most of the agencies that are recommended for funding here can expect their grant for the next fiscal year to serve as the foundation for the next four years. This will enable well-performing agencies to renew grants.”

For the HSG program, about $7 million would be allocated to operating grants, while just under $400,000 will be kept aside for capital or one-time projects.

About 30 people addressed the dais during the public forum, touching on a broad spectrum of issues ranging from homelessness to childcare issues, veterans to education, and others.

Speaking in support of HSG program funding, Virginia Medina, who participated in a local teen parenting class, explained how she was positively pushed and prodded along to finish the program and how she benefited.

“I’m a teen mom. I was part of the teen parenting program and I just graduated. The counseling program really helps,” Media explained, providing tangible perspective of how a community service program with support from City-sponsored grant directly, and positively, affected its intended target.

Just the same, D’Lynn Waldron, a 44-year Santa Monica resident, told the council that arts in Santa Monica have directly benefited from OSP grants and hopes it will continue to lend financial support to entities such as the Santa Monica Symphony.

“The City of Santa Monica’s generous support of its Santa Monica Symphony has helped the symphony become a world-class orchestra,” Waldron said. “The Santa Monica Symphony has been honored five consecutive times by the National Endowment of the Arts for bring artistic excellence to all ages and segments of our community.”

While there were tangible results presented all evening by both City staff and by local residents, Council member Bobby Shriver made an interesting note that, in proportion to its overall respective budgets, the nonprofit agencies servicing Santa Monica actually do not accept much money from the municipality.

“One of the most striking things (you notice) when you look through the Santa Monica grants to these various nonprofits, it’s how small they are in relation to the budgets of these nonprofits. From the city, we are paying for very little of the work,” Shriver said, citing how one group only received eight percent of budget in funding from Santa Monica.

Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis said the financial subsidies are money well spent.

“While it’s thrilling to (give) this money, I view it as an investment,” she said. “You’re all doing us the favor, (much more) than we are doing you the favor.”

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