Federal dollars go to youth programs in the Columbus area
Columbus city leaders announced Thursday that the city would allocate $16.2 million this summer — primarily from federal COVID-19 relief funds — to youth programs, up 2.5 times last year’s amount, according to officials may be.
“We’re trying to make sure this is a seamless transition from Columbus City Schools to the hot summer,” Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said during an announcement in Franklinton.
“This is a historic investment in our young people, in our community, to keep us safe. What we do know is that it worked last year. We know that when we put those dollars on the streets, we connected with those 30,000 young people, it reduced the violence out there.”
Of the total dollars, $14.4 million comes from the American Rescue Plan, while an additional $1.8 million comes from the city’s general fund. The City Council will begin approving spending starting next week.
Separately, Franklin County is investing another $6.1 million to support activities for youth this summer, “from free day camps for elementary and middle school students to paid work experiences to college and career prep programs for high school students and young adults,” officials said in a written statement.
In general, families must meet the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) income guidelines to qualify for the county program, said Bart Logan, spokesman for the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services.
That means meeting no more than 200% of the federal poverty guideline, which in Columbus is $2,265 per month for a single person and $4,625 per month for a family of four. However, those who exceed these guidelines may be eligible for programs through other county-provided funds and are encouraged to continue to apply, Logan said.
Additionally, Columbus City Schools will host their “Summer Experience,” a free, immersive learning program for students from preschool through 12th grade to accelerate their education or participate in course recovery.
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“I would argue that our young people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said Thursday, but by combining federal stimulus dollars with city funding and other community resources, the city is hoping to increase the available to expand the range of programs.
Hardin noted that he worked as a youth intern for former Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman and as a summer worker at Zoombezi Bay, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s 50-acre water park. Hardin said both jobs helped him “earn and learn as a teenager.”
A more detailed breakdown released by Ginther’s office showed that the largest spend, $3 million, was for “city investments” made by two city departments, Public Health and Recreation and Parks. Those dollars will support additional staff for ReRoute Columbus, which is operated by the Columbus CARES Coalition, a violent crime initiative that provides services such as micro-interventions to end violence and grief counseling for victims, the mayor’s office said.
An additional $1.7 million was allocated to Linden, Hilltop & Eastland by the Recreation and Parks and Neighborhoods Departments to support neighborhood beautification efforts and summer employment opportunities.
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I Know I Can and United Way would collectively receive $2 million for “educational” programs. I Know I Can is a nonprofit organization that helps Columbus students prepare and navigate for entry into college while United Way has raised funds for charitable causes in general.
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Another $1.6 million from the federal government is earmarked for “empowerment grants” for various neighborhoods, and $750,000 is earmarked for “business district safety improvements.” Another $440,000 went to Reach Communications, a marketing and messaging strategy firm, but it was unclear for which services.
The breakdown shows $700,000 for Recreation and Parks Department employees and a “network of nonprofits,” and another $300,000 would go to Color Coded Labs, a private startup computer coding school in the Middle East that focuses on black people Prepare workers for technology careers.
The city council recently approved $400,000 for Color Coded Labs, but documentation showing exactly what taxpayers are getting back has not yet been presented by the city development department.
Other programs receiving grants include: Columbus Urban League/Community for New Direction ($1.7 million); Festival Latino/CAPA ($60,000); African American Male Wellness ($250,000); Always With Us Charities ($150,000); Image Character Etiquette Inc. ($75,000); The Past Foundation ($150,000); 934 Gallery ($26,576); Columbus College of Art and Design ($51,700); Brand strategy firm Warhol & WALL ST. ($300,000); design agency GETCR8V and Next is Now ($300,000); Legacy Youth Academy ($227,000); Greater Ohio Planned Parenthood ($150,000); Columbus Fashion Alliance ($350,000); Highland Youth Garden ($25,000); Urban Scouts ($350,000); J.Jireh Development Corporation ($61,500); Legacy Youth Sports ($200,000); and Children’s Hunger Alliance ($40,000).