Community-based organizations fill essential gaps in services to our residents and deliver millions of dollars worth of assistance to our County. After the global pandemic arrived at our shores, our partnership with these organizations became more vital, as the County alone could not keep up with the surge in immediate and critical community demands. Local businesses, farmers, and nonprofits worked in concert to provide necessary assistance to meet the public’s most basic needs, such as food, medical supplies, and shelter.
Access to capital has been a barrier for many grant-seeking, community-based organizations, and now, more than ever, we need to ensure the success of our partners by lifting obstacles that prevent their ability to provide services and products for our residents.
As Economic Development and Budget (“EDB”) Committee Chair, I have introduced legislation to amend Maui County Code Chapter 3.36 and establish two grant categories, for grants under $50,000 and for grants over $50,000. On Thursday, June 4, 2020, at 9:00 a.m. the EDB Committee will meet to discuss my proposed legislation, which aims to more efficiently meet the grant processing needs of our community organizations.
The legislation will streamline the application and reporting process for grants under $50,000, and enable grantees to receive the funding completely upfront. While grants over $50,000 will follow the current application and reporting process, the legislation will enable them to receive up to 25% of the grant funding upfront as well.
According to the Office of Economic Development, almost 60% of the grants disbursed in FY2019 were under $25,000 and many district-specific grants also fell into that category of less than $50,000.
When organizations are unable to secure a fiscal sponsor, or secure a loan to finance expenditures upfront, it often results in the community losing out on the benefit of those services. In the past, hardworking organizations providing boots-on-the-ground services for our community have had to decline grant awards, because they either did not have the necessary resources to satisfy the county’s stringent requirements, or enough capital to finance the venture, while the reimbursements were processed.
This reform will help prevent the strain felt by grantees and assist in the County’s administration of grant processing as well. Streamlined-reporting for grants under $50,000 will build efficiency, saving time for the departments who currently process extensive applications and quarterly reports for each grantee, which can often require time-consuming correspondence.
It is my hope that this legislation will allow both the grantees and the departments to focus more on the product, maximizing support for our community, centering on economic diversification and stability, with less time spent processing excessive paperwork.
This legislation will be discussed in the EDB committee on Thursday, June 4th and at the Council meeting on Friday June 5th. Public testimony will begin at 9:00 a.m. on both days. I encourage the community to watch, participate and provide feedback.
Keani Rawlins-Fernandez is the Maui County Council Vice-Chair and Economic Development and Budget Committee Chair. She holds the council seat for the Molokai residency area. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.