Non-profits to get another $3 million in COVID relief

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Posted November 6, 2020 | By Bill Thompson, Ocala Gazette

The Marion County Commission on Tuesday approved another $3 million to aid local nonprofit groups rocked by COVID-19.

But the head of the Community Foundation, the liaison between the board and the recipients, said time grows short and more groups need to finalize their applications so both sides will know whether another fiscal injection is necessary to help nonprofits recover.

The County Commission seeks to disburse $64 million received under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, a $2-plus trillion coronavirus aid package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in March.

The board got $15.9 million up front and recently won state approval to receive another $12.8 million.

The more significant funding initiatives included $7.5 million directed to the Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership to help local businesses with COVID-related costs. A county report outlining CARES Act grants as of Oct. 28 shows that another big slice – nearly $9.7 million – went to AdventHealth Ocala.

Much of the rest went to cover the county’s own expenses or those of other local government agencies.

The Community Foundation, which is responsible for vetting applicants from the local nonprofit realm, submitted 45 applications to the county for grants totaling $2.4 million, said President and Executive Director Lauren Deiorio. (Agencies can and have submitted more than one application, depending on what they seek reimbursement for.)

According to that county document, the foundation has received $657,936 to be distributed to local groups.

Deiorio noted that the foundation is reviewing another 25 possible grants. Those recipients, if approved, would receive $1.4 million combined.

Yet 65 more requests are in “draft mode,” said Deiorio, meaning they started the application process but haven’t followed through to completion. Meanwhile, the foundation knows of others that may need help but have not formally started the application process.

Deiorio said an initial review of the “draft” requests indicates the additional $3 million that the County Commission green-lighted Tuesday may cover them. But, she added, that’s unclear until the applications are completed.

“We can’t see how much that they’re requesting. We’re just not sure,” she said.

Deiorio said the foundation is working diligently to get the various groups to that point. That’s because the CARES Act set a Dec. 30 deadline for qualified expenses.

Yet, the County Commission’s calendar is quickly winding down. Given the amount of time needed to review the applications and get them on the board’s schedule, time is of the essence, Deiorio said.

The County Commission has three more regular sessions before the federal deadline, the last scheduled for Dec. 15.

“The need is so great right now and they’re desperately trying to get a handle on things,” Deiorio said.

“We want the nonprofits to finish what they’ve started. We’re doing everything we can to push them. I’m not sure they’re going to extend the CARES Act through 2021.”

As far as COVID relief aid for local businesses, Kevin Sheilley, the president and CEO of the CEP, said 306 applications for CARES Act funding under the agency’s Moving Biz Forward program have been approved.

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