Winter Park City Commissioners are working on a plan to distribute at least $1.1 million in federal relief funds to local non-profits that were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the two most recent meetings, commissioners have worked to disperse the funds to three major groups: the Winter Park Public Library, non-profits that already receive city funds, and non-profits that serve Winter Park residents and do not currently receive city funding.
Winter Park officials expect to receive about $12.9 million total through the American Rescue Plan to be applied to a variety of projects and needs across the city. Distribution of the funds will be spread out over two years.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity to plug gaps, to make investments in our people, make investments in our culture, make investments in our city, and really help boost us out of the doldrums we’ve been living in for the last year,” said Winter Park Mayor Phil Anderson at the May 12 meeting. “We’re approaching this great opportunity with a sense of gratitude and appreciation to be in this spot.”
Following a discussion with Sabrina Bernat, the executive director of the Winter Park Public Library, the commission agreed to allocate $600,000 to the library. The library is one of Winter Park’s largest non-profits according to Bernat. During the pandemic, executives saw a significant increase in people needing services for job hunting, resume building, help with at-home schooling, and more.
According to Bernat, the money the Winter Park Public Library receives from the regular city budget funds operating costs such as utilities and staff salaries. This relief money will be directly invested into community services that will potentially include:
- Purchasing new laptops, iPads, and WiFi hotspots for check-out
- Purchasing additional technology and equipment for the computer and makers labs
- Purchasing books and e-books for circulation
- Funding outreach and teaching programs such as summer programs for kids
The commission also voted to allocate $300,000 to fund non-profits that already receive funding through the city, such as Mead Botanical Garden and The Winter Park Playhouse. Each of these approximately 12 organizations will receive $25,000.
Additionally, commissioners agreed to reserve $200,000 of funds to distribute to non-profits that do not currently receive city funds. At the May 26 commission meeting, the commissioners reached consensus on some criteria that will be used to decide which of these non-profits will get a one-time $25,000 payment.
The suggested criteria for consideration includes that the organization must:
- Be a non-profit 501(c)(3)
- Be headquartered in or serving within the municipal boundaries of the City of Winter Park
- Have at least three years of operation under its belt
- Have an annual operating budget that does not exceed $2 million
- Have a board of directors for oversight
- Demonstrate detrimental impact from COVID-19 pandemic
After discussion over additional criteria to be used in the determination process, commissioners voted to establish a subcommittee to make recommendations. That committee consists of Commissioners Marty Sullivan and Todd Weaver who will make their report at the next city commission meeting on June 9.
The allotment of additional American Rescue Funds will be as follows:
- $750,000 for traffic enhancements
- $2 million for Progress Point
- $500,000 for Progress to Mead Botanical Garden Bike Trail Connector
- $1 million for strategic land acquisitions
- $500,000 for cyber security enhancements
- $250,000 for calming neighborhood traffic
- $700,000 for utility assistance program, building facade program, and humanitarian support
- $800,000 for repairs and updates to Central Park Stage
- $1.2 million for broadband upgrades and public WiFi