The first applications are now available for the City of Bethel Community Action Grant, which is designed to address the impacts of alcohol and substance abuse, but is open to broader proposals as well. What are they looking for and who is eligible? KYUK’s municipal reporter Christine Trudeau spoke with Council Member Leif Albertson in the studio to find out.
Christine Trudeau: What is the Community Action Grant, or CAG?
Leif Albertson: So a few months back, the people of Bethel voted to increase the sales tax on alcohol with the stipulation that that extra sales tax went into a special fund that would be awarded to community projects that contributed to the betterment of Bethel. This is the board; this is the process for awarding that money to individuals and groups in Bethel.
Trudeau: How does that work exactly? What is the funding process there?
Albertson: We set this up in Council through ordinance and basically the way that it works is if you are someone, or a group, or you have a project, you can go online or you can go to the [City] Clerk's office and pick up an application packet. You fill out that application, and then that goes to a board of people that then, basically, they rank them just like they would a grant or anything else. So they’re scored and they’re evaluated on things like completeness of the application, the potential benefit to the community, how reasonable it is that this project can be completed on time - that sort of thing.
Trudeau: So this is open for individuals and organizations then?
Albertson: Yeah, so one of the things that we talked about on this board and that’s been important to me from the beginning is that this isn’t something that’s just open to large organizations that have a grant writer, or people that have a lot of experience with grants. You don’t need to be a 501(c)3 non-profit. You don’t need to have a lawyer on your team, anything like that. We really tried to make this application simple. So it is open to individuals, or groups, or non-profits, local entities, and basically the goal of this was to try and use some of that alcohol money for something good in this community.
Trudeau: And so it’s funded from 20 percent of the sales tax that is put on alcohol sales in Bethel. So how much is that going to be for that first round of applications?
Albertson: The numbers are still coming in, and because this is set up on a quarterly basis and the tax went into effect during the quarter, so it’s not a full quarter. Right? So, right now there is $12,000 that is set-aside for this period. In the future we’d expect that to be more, because it would be a full quarter of collections. Additionally, City Council’s last budget put money aside to put in this account, just from the general fund, as a way to fund community efforts of this type. So there is $10,000 budgeted, plus $12,000 that went straight to that account from sales tax.
Trudeau: Say somebody wants to apply. What things should they know? What makes them eligible?
Albertson: Sure. So it is actually very broad. On our website there, you just go to our City of Bethel website and there is a list of exceptions. Certain things like national organizations aren’t able to apply. Obviously anyone that has discriminatory policies aren’t able to apply, but it is actually pretty broad. We’re looking for things that would improve the health, whether that’s mental or physical. We’re looking for things that would directly impact populations and people affected by substance abuse in the community, but it’s intentionally left very broad. So the application process is intentionally short, it’s intended to be simple. We’ll ask them for some basic things, you know, a phone number, a budget, these sorts of things, and we’d expect at the end of it that we’d get some sort of final report back. I’d really encourage anyone who is interested to just take a look at the application, or if there are questions, talk to the City Clerk.
Trudeau: Let’s say somebody applies, they’re awarded it – how does the distribution and monitoring go? What’s the timeline for that?
Albertson: The application process opens up this week [February 16]. The application deadline is February 23 for this round. The board will meet on March 6, and then again on March 14, and they’ll go through these applications and they’ll probably talk to the people who applied if there are any clarifying questions. After that this will go back to Council. Council will appropriate the money, and basically the City cuts a check. After that the project, or whatever it is, will happen, the money will be spent, and then there will be sort of an exit report from the grantee.
Trudeau: Do you know of any other municipalities in the state that are doing similar grants like this?
Albertson: I do not. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening, but this was really not something I modeled after another place. This is something that I guess that I heard a lot of feedback from the community, you know, and what we I think heard, what we all heard on Council, was that there was a lot more alcohol being sold in Bethel, a lot more alcohol being consumed in Bethel is causing a lot of problems. And the city was collecting sales tax revenue on that, but that sales tax wasn’t benefiting some of our local entities, some of our local non-profits like TWC, like [Bethel] Search and Rescue, like Winter House. So there is all this money coming in, but all of our local service agencies were being burdened by the problem and not seeing any revenue. Basically, it seemed like the right idea for Bethel.
Trudeau: If somebody is interested in applying and if they don’t make this round, when is the next round starting?
Albertson: It’s a quarterly process, so the next round will open on May 18.