CARES Act Funding Lags for Providers
By Dianne Anderson
Millions of dollars set to be allocated between now and December 30 has many Black-led nonprofits and small businesses on edge, waiting for the city of Long Beach to roll out the RFP process for the Black Health Equity funding.
The $1 million earmarked specifically to address the needs of the Black community in Long Beach is not yet ready to receive applications.
Sharon Diggs-Jackson said the RFP has not been approved out to the public, and time is running out.
She worries that it’s a formula for failure, especially through the holidays when nonprofits are already overwhelmed trying to meet the high needs of the community.
“Even if that RFP goes out today, you have a 10-day processing time, then it has to be reviewed. We’re talking about after Thanksgiving before decisions can be made,” said Ms. Digg-Jackson, a Long Beach resident who has served the community and the city in several capacities.
Of the $40.2 million CARES Act funding, about half went to the city to cover emergency services and related costs. The other half was divided to support a series of community programs, such as digital inclusion, outreach education, homeless services, among other categories.
Of the $20 million going to overall community COVID support services, $1 million is specifically earmarked to address unique issues within the Black community. The holdup is preventing Black organizations from getting funded in a timely manner, she said, and an RFP needs to be approved to move ahead.
“Until it’s approved, they can’t apply. When we look at the many other programs and RFPs that have already been put out for a bid, a number of Black organizations applied for that money, but that’s separate and apart from the $1 million,” she said.
Linda Tatum, deputy city manager, said the $1 million is going out. Some Black Health Equity programs have already started and are underway. Others are still in the development stage.
The city is committed to spending all of the funding, but she stressed the programs are divided into different strategies and layers.
On the Black Health Equity access to funding, she said some programs have been selected, some vendors have signed contracts. One example is a contract with Cal State Long Beach to have staff develop a program with a class of students to outreach to the Black community. That contract is already out, but she said the work is going to take a while.
In that case, the professor is African American, and has worked with the health department in the past. Everything is oriented toward Black health equity, but she doesn’t know if, or how many, of the students who would be conducting outreach into the community are Black.
Tatum said that programs not related to the Black Health Equity piece are attracting sign-ups from Black providers, but all providers are encouraged to apply for funding across categories. The entire grant requires a COVID connection.
“We’re literally working overtime and doing our best to get the money out. It’s a huge challenge for us. We are a city, we’ve got to follow the rules but we’re committed to getting every penny of this $20 million out,” she said.
She emphasized that the $1 million dedicated to Black health piece also includes Black households that can apply to other programs, such as older adult and early childhood support, pay for childcare, along with mental health and domestic violence help, case management support, and a nonprofit relief program.
“Folks get the benefit of Black Health Equity funding, they can also take advantage of any number of other opportunities as well,” she said.
That $1 million Black Health Equity funding provides gap healthcare services and outreach to mitigate the risk, transmission and spread of COVID-19 among Black residents. The city reports that services will be provided by contracted medical providers and community partners. Black residents make up 13% of the city’s population, but makeup 20% of deaths from COVID-19.
Getting through the process of designing programs to meet all federal regulations is mandatory and a monumental effort, Tatum said. Some delays are a matter of capacity, but she said the city has been scrupulous with all 23 of the programs, not just Black Health Equity.
“It’s getting all of the programs and RFP’s out on the street so the service providers can respond. We’ve had a couple of glitches there,” she said.
As an example, she said one RFP for direct outreach and program services went out, but didn’t get any responses so they had to retool it. For the Black Health Equity component, she said some programs are up and running, and some commodities have been purchased and in the process of being distributed.
She said that it takes longer to get money out for service-oriented products than direct products, such as small business grants or nonprofit grants. To compensate for the lag, she said they would allocate funding quickly as the timeline draws near.
“Unfortunately, most of the Black Health Equity [piece] is regarding services, and those take a lot longer to get set up and get the money out. If we’re at December 15, and we still have $50,000 left, we’re going to try to transfer it and get it out of the door,” she said.
She said the small business working capital grant will help those affected by COVID-19. They can send documentation and be eligible for a grant from $4-7,000.
“Some funding is devoted specifically to programs to residents, some of it is designed to support businesses. Another pot supports nonprofit organizations who typically provide services to the community and they can also apply for those small grants,” she said.
Tatum stressed that the Black community can also widen the net to access money beyond the $1 million, that the city has funding across numerous programs and categories, and they can apply for more than one category of funding.
“The city has $20 million out there floating around. Our Black community, frankly anybody in the community, is eligible for any or all of these programs,” she said.
For those that want to learn more about applying for funds, see