Fayetteville council helps two more nonprofits using ARPA money, holds proposal for broader arts funding

Councilmember Sonia Harvey speaks about a proposal to provide American Rescue Plan Act funds to local nonprofit arts and culture organizations during a City Council agenda-setting session on Dec. 27, 2022. (Flyer photo/Todd Gill)

FAYETTEVILLE — The city will use another round of the $17.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds it received to provide relief for two more local nonprofits.

Council members on Tuesday voted 8-0 to approve a $75,000 subrecipient agreement with WelcomeHealth to help provide free medical and dental care to clients for a year. The council also voted unanimously to move $128,789 to Magdalene Serenity House to renovate a recently purchased home for four graduates of its program for formerly incarcerated women.

Two other proposals, however, were tabled indefinitely to give the council time to attend a workshop to discuss the best use of the remaining $5.1 million in ARPA funds.

Councilmember Sonia Harvey had proposed allocating $3 million for arts and culture nonprofits, and Councilmember Teresa Turk proposed moving $1 million to allow nonprofits to apply for financial help for pandemic-related losses that were incurred between March 2020 and March 2021 since the current rules only cover losses incurred between March 2021 to March 2022.

The WelcomeHealth and Magdalene Serenity House decisions were approved quickly, but the discussion about Harvey’s proposal lasted over an hour and a half.

Harvey said the arts and culture industry was hit hard by the pandemic and needs a boost. She said once the city’s Arts Council heard how much money was left of the city’s ARPA funds, the panel recommended asking for an allocation of $3 million.

The proposal included a schedule that would immediately begin advertising the grant opportunity, with applications being submitted in February and recommendations for funding coming in April.

While about a dozen members of the public – mostly those from the arts and culture sector – spoke in favor of the proposal, council members were mostly hesitant.

Councilmember Sarah Moore immediately suggested tabling the proposal for a couple of meetings to give the group time to ensure that there aren’t other projects that need more funding. Waiting, Moore said, could help the council better prioritize how it uses the remainder of the ARPA money.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan said one program that will likely need more funding is the city’s new childcare assistance program. Officials last month said judging by the amount of applications that have already been submitted, the council may soon need to appropriate more ARPA money to the popular program.

Councilmember Mike Wiederkehr said he knows the arts and culture sector was affected by the pandemic, but there could be higher priority needs when it comes to allocating the remainder of the federal funds, such as groups focused on food insecurity, affordable housing or other life-pressing issues.

Councilmember Scott Berna said the groups that have applied for funds but haven’t been approved should be considered before the council uses up the last of its ARPA money. Berna said he knows the arts sector is important, but he felt like $3 million was too much to ask for consider there are still outstanding applications.

Councilmember Sarah Bunch agreed, but said supporting arts and culture organizations is also a valid proposal.

“I do want to recognize the importance of the creative economy in our city,” said Bunch. “Because we wouldn’t just be giving money to the arts. We’d be supporting organizations that employ people and that help educate our children.”

Turk said it might be helpful to have a workshop to review some of the applications that have already been submitted. After clearing the idea with city staff, Harvey agreed, and moved to table her proposal indefinitely. Turk agreed to table her proposal as well, and both motions were approved unanimously.

In the meantime, Councilmember Holly Hertzberg said she plans to bring a separate proposal to provide $742,223 to Excellerate Foundation for job training and placement services for low-income residents. That discussion will begin at the council’s next meeting on Jan. 17.