Las Cruces City Council Reviews Nonprofit Funding Priorities

The City of Las Cruces has committed $ 10.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to community and economic development initiatives. For nonprofits, this means additional resources to help community members recover from the pandemic.

But funding allocations for these local organizations are still pending, with Las Cruces City Council choosing to postpone a vote to adopt nonprofit funding priorities. This will allow time for an audit on the application process to be presented to the board, as described by Councilor Gabe Vasquez.

“I think it’s in the best interest of the public to be able to go through this process and better understand how this RFP was going, what the communication was like with potential candidates,” Vasquez said.

Of the 21 applications received, the city’s selection committee recommends that nine be funded. The city’s director of housing and neighborhood services, Natalie Green, said applications were first assessed for eligibility before being presented to the selection committee for scoring.

“The scoring matrix covered a number of elements,” Green said. “The first was the rationale for the project, how does it approach the response to the COVID pandemic or the negative impacts resulting from the pandemic? Did he meet the city’s goals? What was the impact on the community? “

Recommendations include $ 600,000 for the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope Housing Risk Mitigation Fund, $ 2 million for the Southern New Mexico Community Foundation, as well as $ 1.7 million for a Southern New Mexico Community Action Agency Guaranteed Basic Income Project.

Councilor Johana Bencomo says she is excited to see these projects gain additional resources to help improve the quality of life for the city’s residents.

“These are projects that are a direct injection into the well-being of our community,” said Bencomo. “For the quality of people’s lives, because of the pandemic, each of these projects seems to me to be just for the money, which is what ARPA was intended for.”

Lori Martinez, executive director of Ngage New Mexico, spoke out against parts of the application process, calling for more transparency.

“The problem is, neither of us knew that there would be a screening committee of these three members in advance,” Martinez said. “It’s not uncommon to have a screening committee just to make sure that nonprofits are eligible. However… there was no scoring matrix so that we knew what criteria these three people were using to determine whether applications were accepted or not.

It’s a message Councilor Bencomo took to heart – pleading for further consideration before a vote.

“I hear Ms. Martinez say there’s that sticking point, isn’t there. I think it’s important that we look at it, ”Bencomo said. “To start over, I’m not in favor of this, but I just want to consider what our trusted community partners are saying.”

The board will reconsider this resolution on December 20.

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