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Newton Launches New Grant Initiative with ARPA Funds to Address Community Needs — The Heights

The City of Newton will appropriate $1.75 million of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to create a grant initiative fostering economic stability and mobility among those who were most harmed by the pandemic, according to Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s email update. 

The city will partner with nonprofit organizations, which can begin to apply for the grant money later this month, to serve members of eligible popul​​ations. 

The ARPA Advisory Committee defined the population eligible for the initiative’s support as those who earn 65 percent or less of Newton’s area median income. Underprivileged Newton households—particularly those of Black and Hispanic residents—are also eligible. 

Christina Citino, senior research manager at the Donahue Institute of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, presented at a public information session Thursday night on the city’s progress on the initiative. 

Citino partners with the ARPA Advisory Committee—formed in February after the city commissioned a Community Needs Assessment—to monitor community needs for the grant initiative. The committee will review applications for the grant from nonprofit organizations and make final recommendations to the mayor. 

The assessment outlined a number of challenges that either emerged as a result of or were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Citino. These challenges include increased housing and rental costs, financial hardship, and loss of income.

Citino said one of the critical focuses of the advisory committee was to reach a clearer definition of economic stability and mobility. 

“Economic stability is defined as having the resources essential to one’s life and wellbeing,” Citino said. “Some of the factors [that affect stability] include employment, livable wages, debt, housing, and building wealth. Economic mobility is a bit different. That refers to the change and well-being over time, so we really start to get into questions of generational poverty and moving up the socioeconomic scale.”

The requirements for proposals will not be intensely prescriptive beyond the committee’s definition of economic stability and mobility, according to Citino, as the needs assessment advocated for flexible financial support strategies. 

Proposed projects can take different approaches to promoting economic stability and mobility as long as applicants can make a case for their project’s efficacy.

The city will release its call for proposals later this month. The committee will review the proposals and make a final recommendation to the mayor in December. The grant is projected to be awarded in January 2023.

Featured Image by Steve Mooney / Heights Editor

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