BARNSTABLE — The Barnstable County administration has received 122 letters of interest from would-be applicants for small and medium-size grants that would be funded through the American Rescue Plan Act. It is now deciding which ones will be invited to submit formal applications.
The county commissioners and Assembly of Delegates approved an expenditure of up to $5 million for this program — of $41.3 million in total ARPA funds received. The program is open to a broad range of applicants: nonprofits like arts organizations, food banks, church groups, and “friends of” groups, but also private for-profit organizations and town departments.
Of the total, $2 million will be awarded in small grants between $100,000 and $250,000; $3 million will provide grants of $250,000 to $500,000.
Interest in the funding was high, according to ARPA program manager Kara Hughes. The county hosted two bidders’ conferences to explain the details. And county staff spent more than 100 hours answering questions from prospective applicants. Barnstable County Administrator Beth Albert said in an email that the requests totaled over $40 million.
According to Hughes, projects proposed in the letters of interest fell into the following categories: seven proposals for broadband projects totaling $2.5 million; eight food security proposals totaling $2.5 million; nine early childhood and educational proposals totaling $3 million; nine community services proposals totaling $3.4 million; 15 public health-related proposals totaling $4 million; 19 arts or historic preservation proposals totaling $4.2 million; 14 proposals related to local business assistance totaling $5.1 million; 14 housing-related proposals totaling $5.5 million; and 27 water-related proposals totaling $9.7 million.
County staff will now review and score the letters of interest. Assistant County Administrator Vaira Harik said during the bidders’ conferences that proposals will be scored on how well they address one or more regional challenges, including sewer and water quality issues, housing, child care, economic stability, climate change, and infrastructure.
Those that score above a minimum level will get a green light to submit formal proposals through the county’s application portal; they are due by the beginning of December. At the Independent’s deadline, the county commission was expecting to get an update in its Oct. 26 meeting regarding the number of organizations that would be invited to move forward to the application phase.
The review process for the applications is already in place. The county has hired consulting accountants at Clifton Larsen Allen to do an initial review to make sure the use fits in the program’s federal guidelines. Then, members of the county ARPA team will again use a scoring system.
The review process will conclude at the end of March 2023. Projects will be presented to the county commission in April, and funds are expected to be disbursed in May.
Meanwhile, the application process continues for the $10 million in ARPA funding set aside for the 15 towns. To date, seven grants have been awarded to six towns. The four towns of the Outer Cape are among the remaining nine towns (Brewster, Harwich, Chatham, Dennis, Eastham, Orleans, Provincetown, Truro, and Wellfleet) still going through the application process.
A new eligible use category, replacement of revenue loss in the public sector to ensure the continuity of vital government services, was added to the application portal on Oct. 5 to help smaller towns that may not have the capacity to manage larger projects.