Mar. 18—Reading nonprofits may get a slice of the more than $61 million Reading is slated to receive from the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress last year and signed by President Joe Biden.
The city has received about half of its allotment and expects the rest of the funds by the end of the month.
It will have until 2026 to spend the funds.
Mayor Eddie Moran has asked City Council to reserve $5 million for grants to nonprofit agencies to support community needs.
Council discussed the application and selection process for such grants Tuesday at a committee-of-the-whole meeting.
"The Moran administration had two public meetings where the city provided a presentation on how the ARPA program works, group sessions and an opportunity for the public to express their comments," said Frank Denbowski, interim city managing director and Moran's chief of staff. "It became pretty clear to us that we wanted to come up with an application process so we can evaluate requests for funding."
Denbowski said the city also had several informal meetings with stakeholders to help gauge community needs and their magnitude.
After the meetings, Moran's administration decided an application process would be the best way to decide on the distribution of funds and suggested a maximum grant amount of $500,000 for programs that will have long-term impact on the city and its residents, Denbowski said.
"We didn't want to cap it at $50,000 or $100,000 because that money would not have the same community impact," he said.
The grants would be competitive, he said. Some awards could be less than the maximum and not all applicants would be awarded funds.
Denbowski said grant recipients would be selected by a committee composed of two community representatives, one selected by the mayor and one selected by council; two members of council; one member of the mayor's staff; the downtown coordinator; and one representative chosen from a nonprofit that is not applying for funding.
"We believe this will be the most independent, nonpolitical way to go about it," he said.
The committee would review the applications and make recommendations to council. Any grant awards would be made by council.
The grant application would be similar to that developed by the county for a similar purpose, Denbowski said.
Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz said she wants to make sure eligible organizations have access to information on the selection criteria, scoring and grant requirements.
Jamar Kelly, director of administrative services, said the information would be made available and the selection committee would use a scoring tool that lists the criteria for eligibility and evaluation.
"Once it is decided that this is the program we want to implement," Denbowski said, "we have to decided on a timeline for applications."
He suggested a window of 45 days for accepting applications and 60 to 90 days for the committee to make recommendations to council.
There would be a final vetting process before council would make any awards, he said, and an agreement with any grant recipients to ensure follow through.
"A lot of checks and balances are in the process to ensure they accomplish the goal and that we have the greatest impact in meeting the community needs," Denbowski said.
Applications could be available next month.
Additional information will be posted on the city's website as it becomes available.