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BBCF, HOPE award first grants to help cities fight ongoing pandemic

The Black Belt Community Foundation (BBCF), in conjunction with Hope Credit Union (HOPE) and various partners throughout the region, announced earlier this week that the first round of recoverable grants were going out to cities and towns across the BBCF’s 16-county service area.

Because many small towns do not have the financial liquidity to spend thousands of dollars on pandemic-related necessities and await a reimbursement, the groups’ grant program is an innovative way to get that up-front capital to cities and distribute the reimbursements to other municipalities in need.

“The COVID-19 Access Program serves as a bridge for communities that must seek reimbursement for CVID-related expenses to access their share of a $250 million allocation provided through the federal [Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security] CARES Act,” a BBCF press release stated. “Under the program, HOPE provides BBCF a line of credit, allowing the nonprofit to make recoverable grants to cities and counties in amounts of $50,000 or less at a time for the purchase of reimbursable COVID-related items.”

The press release noted that the organization confirms with the state that proposed expenditures are in fact reimbursable before grants are approved and only allows for one outstanding grant at a time.

Perry County received a recoverable grant of $21,441 from the BBCF COVID-19 Access Program, which will be used to install acrylic safety shields across a number of county offices in an effort to make point-of-contact exchanges between the pubic and county employees safer.

“[This] funding source has been a game-changer for our local government,” Perry County Commissioner Albert Turner Jr. said in the release. “In fact, without it, Perry County would be the same after COVID as it was before it.”

Yellow Bluff, a town of about 170 in Wilcox County, received a recoverable grant in the amount of $8,024 for the purchase of laminated document pouches, which can be sanitized as needed, for paperwork shared between the public and city officials.

Yellow Bluff Mayor Joyce Williams noted that, while the grant may not seem like much in the global war on COVID-19, it will go a long way in her town.

“When we first heard of these funds being available and what the Black Belt Community Foundation was doing to facilitate access to them, I was encouraged,” Williams said in the release. “We’ll be doing our very best in the Town of Yellow Bluff to fully utilize these resources to make our community and day-t-day practices safer.”

Boligee, a town of roughly 300 in Greene County, received a $24,910 grant to provide proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and electronic equipment to allow city workers to work from home as a way of minimizing contact with coworkers and the public.

Alabama has set a Dec. 30, 2020, deadline for CARES Act funding, so the BBCF is urging city leaders across the Black Belt to get applications in as soon as possible via the group’s website, blackbeltfound.org.

Additional partners in the program include the Alabama Power Foundation, the Regions Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Altec/Styslinger Foundation, the Medical Properties Trust, the Protective Life Foundation and the Mike and Gillian Goodrich Foundation.