Covington Donates ARPA Funds to Four Nonprofits to Ease the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Families
The first thing that struck Andy Brunsman at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was how many new faces showed up asking for help at Be Concerned: The People’s Pantry.
The second thing was the fear on those faces.
“People were scared,” said Brunsman, executive director of Be Concerned. “We were seeing faces that were unfamiliar to our agency, and the only tangible thing you could see when you were talking to them was that they were scared. They didn’t know what was coming next or what to count on.
As the pandemic intensified, the number of people in need continued to rise.
“There were just massive amounts of people coming to us asking for help during this time,” he said. “During COVID, what many of us have learned is that middle-class families were only a few paychecks away from being in the pantry queue.”
One of the programs the small nonprofit created in November 2020 to meet this growing need — a monthly “pantry night” for Covington’s growing Hispanic population — has grown to attract about 100 families. by night.
To help Be Concerned expand the program into its pantry at 1100 Pike St., the Covington City Board of Commissioners recently awarded it $85,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
Three other Covington nonprofits will also receive a portion of the $1.15 million ARPA funds the city is giving to local nonprofit agencies and organizations whose work helps mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the families and workers of Covington. Other organizations receiving funding so far include Legal Aid of the Bluegrass (Covington office), The Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, and Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky.
“COVID-19 has impacted our lives at home and at work in unprecedented ways, and it has had overwhelming effects on service providers here in Covington,” said City Manager Ken Smith. “The ARPA funds will allow these nonprofits to build long-term resilience and continue their vital efforts to help residents recover from the pandemic.”
Be Concerned’s English as a Second Language Families program exemplifies what the city aims to achieve: helping families and workers in Covington who are still struggling to overcome the hardships and deficits caused by the pandemic.
To overcome language barriers, Brunsman and his team approached the Esperanza Latino Center, also on Pike Street, to become a partner in both the current program and the expansion.
Esperanza helps raise awareness of the event and other Be Concerned resources, schedules appointments, sends text reminders, coordinates volunteers, prepares food orders, and registers new families. He also identified culturally appropriate foods to showcase.
The agency’s executive director, Reid Yearwood, hailed the partnership and the opportunity to expand reach.
“Food assistance continues to be a major need within the Latino-Hispanic community of Covington,” Yearwood said. “We are extremely grateful for all that Be Concerned has done to welcome the community and give Esperanza the opportunity to host ESL nights with the goal of enrolling more families and connecting them to much needed food assistance.”
Brunsman said the city’s ARPA funds will allow Be Concerned to meet the needs of the growing number of families they serve and implement efficiencies that he says don’t exist otherwise. He said while many of the agency’s clients have seen some recovery through federal stimulus checks, extended unemployment benefits and other assistance, many are still struggling to weather the setbacks they suffered during the pandemic.
“We had 98 families scheduled for our most recent ESL family night, and the original capacity was around 60, so we’re well over capacity,” Brunsman said. “The ARPA funds are timely as we have built community trust with these families over the past year and a half and now we are on the verge of needing this kind of support to help the neediest families in Covington from this census tract. at present.”
The city awards the $1.15 million in ARPA rewards to nonprofits on a competitive basis and splits them over two rounds.
The city launched an initial request for proposals in May for programs, services and initiatives for people who live in certain census tracts identified by the federal government. Programs do not have to be new, but they should represent at least an expansion or improvement of an agency’s (or agencies, if collaborating) existing service delivery.
Additional nonprofit organizations that have applied for and will receive ARPA funds will be announced as soon as they are approved by the Board of Commissioners. The scholarships range from $50,000 to $500,000. Early on, the Commission allocated $500,000 of the money to organizations that provide mental health services.
A second RFP will be sent out later this year for the small remaining funding balance.
Besides Be Concerned, the other initial prizes announced so far will be:
• Bluegrass Legal Aid: $100,000 for a financial literacy and legal representation program.
• The Center of the Grands Quartiers: $45,000 for a return program on tax returns.
• The Northern Kentucky Children’s Home: $500,000 for the construction of emergency capital improvements to all buildings on the Devou Park campus.
The nonprofit program is one of 32 general expense categories the Covington Board of Commissioners has identified for the city’s $36 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. The Commission split that money ($35,914,130, to be exact) into “buckets” earlier this year.
The City will continue to advertise funds and services in the other 31 categories as they become available.
Town of Covington