On Monday night, August 24th, the Cunningham Township Board and the Urbana City Council held a joint meeting to hear recommendations from the city’s Community Services Department about how to allocate $175,000 in grants from the Consolidated Social Services Fund (CSSF).
The Consolidated Social Services Grants Program and its associated fund is organized in collaboration between Cunningham Township and the City of Urbana which allocates grant funding to organizations providing social services to residents of the Township. The program has two associated Urbana staff members: Alyssa Jaje and Sheila Dodd. Jaje is the Community Development Specialist and Dodd is the Grants Manager.
The meeting on Monday was to give the Cunningham Township Board a chance to preview the recommendations Jaje is making for funding allocations. Of the $175,000, $100,000 comes from the Township, which is supported through property taxes. $70,000 is coming from the City’s general funds. The remaining $5,000 comes from community development block grants made available through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to Jaje in her presentation.
The organizations being recommended for funding vary in specialization, but all offer social services. The largest recommended grant is $21,000 to the University YMCA New American Welcome Center, a program that offers services and guidance to recent immigrants.
Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin said of the program: “they’ve been a leader in outreach to the immigrant community in our census efforts and that, of course, has a direct impact on the dollars coming into our community for programs and services that we need.”
The average recommended grant amount is $10,294. The services that these grants pay for range from work on issues of racial justice, shelters for homeless populations, senior services, and more. According to last year’s annual program report, youth services made up the plurality of funding, making up one quarter of all the money awarded. The least represented sector was senior services in last year’s grant making.
The organizations eligible for funding are nearly all 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporations, with some exceptions, most notably the Champaign County Regional Planning Comission, which is an intergovernmental member organization.
Curious to see the exact organizations and how much they were recommended? Here’s the data we have:
According to Jaje in the meeting, organizations will be reimbursed after purchase with CSSF money. These reimbursements will be contingent on demonstrating the service helped Urbana residents.
Of the 26 organizations that applied for funding, 12 of them were denied and one withdrew its application for consideration. When asked by the Ward 7 council member, Jared Miller, about some of these denials, Jaje said many of the applications were incomplete. For complete applications that were denied, Jaje said “a lot of them were just issues of making sure they could financially manage a grant and also that they were meeting immediate needs.”
Miller and Ward 5 council member Dennis Roberts took this occasion to offer feedback on the application and review process, suggesting that applicants who are denied for incomplete material be given a grace period after their denial to complete their applications.
The program is recommending a lower total amount of grant money this year, down from $215,500 last year. When asked in an interview about the lower budget, Jaje said the program was smaller due to the township reallocating $40,500 of its commitment to the program to other programs and services within the township.
When asked if this list of recommendations will be different from the final decision made by City Council, Jaje said “I do expect it to be pretty close.” The current plan for Jaje and the Township Board is for the list of recipients to be submitted for formal approval by the Board at another Joint Meeting on September 14th. The agenda for that meeting has not been finalized as of writing this.
The process for applications was different this year to last. “We really changed the program and procedures,” Jaje said. This included a policy to reject all incomplete applications as well as introducing a new scoring tool used to ensure that all applications meet a base level of quality, as determined by the Community Development office. In order to help organizations navigate the application process, all applicants were required to attend a workshop facilitated by Jaje in order to go over requirements and address questions.
Recently appointed Ward 2 City Council Member Julie Laut said that, in general, the work being done on the Cunningham Township Board right now is a sign of hope. “I know it’s not about policy, but it is about justice and equality.”
The recommendations made to the council are not final and are subject to approval by the elected officials on the Township Board. For residents of Urbana, you can find out who represents you in this decision and their contact information at www.urbanaillinois.us/city-council.