STEPHEN HEMELT — See what this Mid County city is doing to try to give money away

Published 12:32 am Saturday, March 19, 2022

It was an unusual statement made by Don Albanese this week.

And the veteran Nederland mayor knew it.

“I didn’t know it would be so hard to give money away,” Albanese said.

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City Manager Chris Duque responded: “It is hard to give money away.”

The exchange took place during a Nederland City Council meeting and came during the tail end of a discussion regarding the city’s Non-Profit Partnership Grant Program.

The City of Nederland announced last month that the first effort it planned following a $4.3 million award from the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund is geared to nonprofit financing.

The city is making some of those funds available to assist nonprofits that lost revenue due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as nonprofits providing specific services to the community.

The first step in the process requires nonprofits to complete a notice of intent to participate form.

The original deadline to submit that form was Friday (March 18), but that has now been extended three weeks after Duque detailed to the city council that response from the community has been less-than-expected.

The new deadline to submit the form is April 8, and city leaders are reaching out to various organizations to see if their administrators are interested in applying.

There were 13 applications early this week, with talk of capping each request at $25,000. However, Duque joked that one application called for the city to award the applicant $809,000 in COVID reimbursement money.

Judging by the tone of the discussion at this week’s meeting, it does not appear that total will be awarded.

“They all seem to be eligible,” Duque said about the applicants. “There are some issues with some of them, where the application, we will have to address. Those are the ones that are outside of the city limits. What’s the amount that they are servicing Nederland residents? We’re going to wait and see on that.”

April 8 would be the final extension, according to Duque.

The city was hoping to get the first checks out by the end of May, and Duque did not shut the door completely on that possibility.

He noted some of the applicants turned in the notice of intent form the day after it was made available and appear to have all necessary paperwork already in order.

City leaders suggested the possibility of awarding the funding in two stages in an effort to get the funds in the hands of groups already prepared.

Nederland leaders began discussing this effort in late 2021, saying the funds are designed to recoup lost revenue impacted directly by COVID-19 or reimburse organizations that have increased spending efforts due to pandemic response.

Nederland modeled its program after a similar effort in Fort Bend County.

The effort opens the door for the city to assist food pantries and groups helping with clothing due to the loss of employment through the pandemic.

In 2021, a lot of area nonprofits which count on the Heritage Festival as their biggest money maker missed on the event when it was canceled.

For any nonprofit to be considered, it must have tax-exempt status.

“We will have to document everything, like their tax exempt status, their location, the services they provide,” Duque said at the time. “We are probably going to need some of their tax documents to confirm the revenue they made.”

If there are any questions regarding the project, those interested can call 409-723-1503.

Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes panews.com and The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at stephen.hemelt@panews.com or 409-721-2445.