TUPELO • Changes in legislation around the Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Grant Program will give qualifying nonprofits access to more aid starting Sunday.

Mississippi established the program as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, allowing a total of $4 million for nonprofit entities and an additional $4 million for food pantries to be provided through the state’s seven community foundations.

In October, the Legislature increased reimbursement funding for qualifying agencies that apply after Nov. 15 from $4,000 to $12,000. They also opened eligibility of the program to organizations like civic clubs.

Eligible applicants that applied for $4,000 in reimbursable expenditures and were approved prior to Nov. 15 will receive an email to submit supplemental documentation through the application portal in order to apply for the additional $8,000, according to a press release from the CREATE Foundation. Funding is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The CREATE Foundation oversees approximately $1.6 million in CARES Act funding divided evenly among nonprofits and food pantries among 21 counties. As of Nov. 6, 52 applications for grants have been submitted, and the Community Foundation for Mississippi has approved 11 grants. Grants have been approved in Lowndes (3), Lee (3), Lafayette (3), and Oktibbeha (2) counties.

The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council of Lafayette County was among the earliest approved applicants, with the money helping the organization reimburse expenses spent on supporting artists and restaurant workers during the pandemic. Executive director Wayne Andrews said the organization quickly realized that while it was a blessing to fund artists and give them the technology needed to retool, funds such as these were needed to help them continue their work.

“As this pandemic continues to impact our community, and (is) still impacting the entire country, it’s having a drastic impact on community organizations as funding becomes scarce, donations begin to dwindle, so to have this small boost was a blessing,” Andrews said.

Giving direct grants to artists and restaurant workers and investing in technology to provide streaming options for artists to offer classes, livestream events, and similar ways of sharing their art have been among the organization’s key efforts. A final step was taking the time to partner with other arts councils throughout the state to provide the Stay-At-Home Festival.

The agency helped organize Tunes around Town in Oxford, where musicians play music at different locations throughout the Square.

Regional Rehabilitation Center of Tupelo, another grant recipient, has been thankful that several organizations helped them cover the added expense of equipment needed to make their facility safe.

“We were very blessed and very excited to be able to receive that,” said executive director Robby Parman. “Thank the CREATE Foundation for making this process so easy, and thank you to the community for helping with these unforeseen expenses. We greatly appreciate it and it has allowed us to carry on our mission.”

RRC served over 1,485 people this past year, providing approximately 46,000 services to people from 18 different counties. The organization provides physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, early intervention services and dyslexia services without charge.

The United Way of Northeast Mississippi is helping review of some submitted grants. The goal is to spread the available funds out as widely as possible.

“We’re hoping to see a lot more requests come Nov. 15 when the granting amount goes up to $12,000,” said Mary Ann Plasencia, United Way of Northeast Mississippi Director of Community Impact. “We’re hoping that more nonprofits will really take advantage of this money and use it to kind of make them whole again.”

The deadline for interested applicants to create an account and complete the eligibility quiz is Dec. 15. The deadline for full application submission is Jan. 15, 2021 at 5 p.m. More information about the grant funding can be found at www.mscaresgrant.com. Specific questions related to the grant funding for the CREATE Foundation’s coverage area can be directed to the foundation.

danny.mcarthur@journalinc.com

Twitter: @Danny_McArthur_

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