State launches $30 million emergency grant program for community nonprofits

By: - December 10, 2021 5:30 am

A volunteer packs food at Three Square Senior Hunger Campus. (Photo courtesy Three Square of Southern Nevada)

The State of Nevada plans to dole out $30 million directly to nonprofits that are helping communities endure the pandemic.

The emergency grant program, which has already begun accepting applications, will be funded by the American Rescue Plan and was inspired by the hundreds of submissions made by nonprofits during the state’s recent three-month “listening tour,” which solicited feedback on how the state should prioritize spending of its $6.7 billion of federal relief funds.

Since the passage of the ARP, elected officials and state administrators have emphasized that the unprecedented one-time infusion of federal funds provides an opportunity to invest in areas where systemic problems exist, such as the lack of affordable housing and childcare.

“We have heard tirelessly through the listening tour that there are real needs in the community now,” said Bailey Bortolin, deputy chief of staff at the governor’s office. “So, while we continue to get these (ARP) dollars out into the community every day, we want to make sure that we are connecting with the providers that are best situated to get these dollars out there in a way that can really meaningfully impact people’s lives.”

Approximately 350 ideas or proposals were submitted by nonprofits during the statewide listening tour, according to Bortolin. Those ideas totalled “billions of dollars” worth of spending, she added, so the state will accept applications until Jan. 3 and then “triage” them to select which to fund. Applications that focus on the most vulnerable communities and urgent needs will be prioritized.

The governor’s office announced the launch of the grant program Thursday during a meeting of the Interim Finance Committee, which will have to give its stamp of approval to the individual grants selected by the governor’s office for approval. That is expected to happen during IFC’s February meeting.

A subsequent press release about the program clarified that the grants will support nonprofits offering direct and immediate services to the community and are designed to help increase the amount of help provided, not support infrastructure or operations. Grant amounts will vary. Additional details are available at NevadaRecovers.com.

The grants are available to any nonprofit but the proposed spending must adhere to federal guidelines set by the U.S. Treasury. The governor’s office has also identified broad priorities, including schools, jobs, childcare and housing.

A full breakdown of the more than 2,500 total submissions to the listening tour has not been compiled and released by the state. Last week, Gov. Steve Sisolak told a Current reporter the state was still working through the proposals.

Bortolin referred to the Jan. 3 deadline and expected February approval as “the first round of applications” but made no mention of plans to hold additional rounds. A follow-up question emailed to the governor’s office about whether the state is considering allocating additional money through the grant program went unanswered Thursday. Thirty million dollars makes up a small sliver of Nevada’s total $6.7 billion in ARP funding, though some of that money is being given to nonprofits through more narrowly targeted grant programs run by other state agencies.

While much of the ARP money is earmarked for specific areas (for example: rental assistance) around $2.7 billion is considered “state general aid” and available for a variety of uses.

“Watching literally billions of dollars going to the areas in Nevada that need it the most…, it’s been a literal lifesaver for so many Nevadans and for our economy,” said Assemblyman Chris Brooks, who chairs the IFC.

Medicaid enrollment continues to rise

One in four Nevadans continue to be enrolled in Medicaid, state administrators reported to lawmakers on the IFC Thursday.

Nevada Medicaid’s November enrollment totals 852,673 —  a 33% increase since pre-pandemic when enrollment was holding steady around 650,000.

That averages to 10,000 new people enrolling each month of the pandemic.

The number of enrollees has increased even as economic conditions for the state have improved. In February 2021, more than 810,000 Nevadans were enrolled in Medicaid.

Top Nevada Medicaid administrator Suzanne Bierman told lawmakers that a number of uncertainties make it difficult to predict how enrollment might be affected next calendar year. In response to the pandemic, Medicaid rules were changed at the federal level to allow for continuous enrollment (meaning people wouldn’t be unenrolled over income changes) and allowed states to expand eligibility requirements. Those waivers will eventually end after the “public health emergency” is declared over.

Bierman also noted she hasn’t found a way to determine how much of the state is still eligible but not enrolled in Medicaid.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and two mutts.

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