County officials voted Monday to waive a restriction on how often nonprofit organizations can receive a major government grant.
The decision comes after the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida, whose five-year grant award cycle ends this year, asked officials last week to get rid of the limitation.
The Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida has received Community Service Agency (CSA) funds from the county for five years, totaling $461,000. After five years, nonprofits are required to “sit out” during year six before they are eligible to get CSA funds again in year seven.
The CSA grant program was established for fiscal year 2012-13 to provide supplemental money to nonprofit groups. Worthy organizations are chosen and ranked by a seven-person board that evaluates groups on various criteria before passing along recommendations to Osceola County commissioners. Eleven groups were awarded funds through CSA last year.
But Boys & Girls Club Development Officer Kathleen Sipio appealed to county officials at an April 1 meeting and asked them to waive the one-year waiting period, citing the more than 1,500 students served by the group in Osceola County.
“Every one of those children has a story, and they make up our community landscape,” Sipio said.
B&GC of Central Florida provides after school development programs for at-risk youth ages 6 to 18 in Brevard, Nassau, Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. There are two club locations in Osceola.
Because the nonprofit members are “optimists,” Sipio added, B&GC had already applied for its sixth year of CSA funding.
County Commissioner Viviana Janer – whose district includes the Buenaventura Lakes B&GC, voiced support for waiving the waiting period at Monday’s county meeting.
“These are unique services that quite honestly, we would need to provide otherwise if these organizations did not exist,” Janer said.
The county had already removed a stipulation that gradually decreased funding for nonprofits each year of the five-year CSA cycle to promote self-sufficiency after B&GC members asked commissioners to waive the provision last year.
In September, commissioners also approved a five-year contract with the group valued at more than $1 million. The agreement gives B&GC access to the Robert Guevara Community Center and in return, the organization is tasked with maintaining the facility.
County Commissioner Peggy Choudhry was the lone opposing vote Monday. She voiced concern about continuing to award government dollars to the same organizations each year, when other non-profits could benefit from the money.
“I would love to see these great organizations find ways to consistently be with us in Osceola County and not solely depend on the one grant we’re currently able to distribute,” Choudhry said.
Osceola County commissioners ultimately agreed to remove the one-year waiting period following a five-year CSA grant cycle 3-1, with Choudhry opposing and Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. abstaining.