Local non-profits, fire departments get share of $450K in federal grants

The Southold Town Board allocated $450,000 in federal relief money to local nonprofits and volunteer fire departments at its meeting late last month.

Southold’s Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation received the largest share of the funds at $70,000; the North Fork Parish Outreach food pantry in Greenport got $22,734 and the Riverhead-based homeless outreach program Maureen’s Haven was given $7,265.

The town was awarded around $2 million in federal relief through the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act. The funds — intended to help municipalities offset the financial jolt caused by COVID-19 — will help the nonprofits continue to combat hunger and support those affected by the local housing shortage.

Area nonprofits are facing unprecedented demand exacerbated by the pandemic, inflation and rising housing costs. CAST, which has been providing support in Southold Town since 1965, currently serves around 10% of the town’s population, according to executive director Cathy Demeroto. She said CAST is grateful for the ARPA funds.

“We feel it’s imperative to collaborate with the town to ensure that the needs of community members are met. CAST and other non-profits provide important services that fill gaps in services that the town is unable to provide because of their limited resources,” she said. “So we think this is a good start and we’re hopeful that we can move forward as a collaborative partner with the town and other nonprofits to ensure that we are meeting the needs of all people in the community.”

The Town Board’s ARPA allocations also include $50,000 for “each of the fire departments serving the residents of the Town of Southold,” according to the agenda item. The six departments — including Fishers Island — are expected to use the funds for “the purchase of equipment and apparatus for the purpose of bolstering public sector capacity to deliver critical services,” the agenda item said.

ARPA mandates that municipalities award the funds they receive for specific purposes: to replace lost revenue, address public health issues, provide premium pay for essential workers and/or boost infrastructure. The act also stipulates that funding must be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026, and that any unused funds be returned to the government. According to the state comptroller, Southold Town still has $1.3 million in unallocated ARPA funds.

The board’s decision put an end to a months-long debate about how to support struggling aid groups. That conversation began last fall when CAST requested $100,000 from the town, citing dire financial need among locals. Councilman Greg Doroski took the lead in the effort to establish criteria for both the Town Board and nonprofits to follow when seeking aid.

“We all felt that it was a really important thing for the community,” Mr. Doroski said. “Just looking at the amount of money that [nonprofit organizations] spent in 2022 on emergency food aid and housing assistance really put the scale and scope of the problem in Southold Town into perspective.”

According to the state comptroller, the designated organizations should receive the funding by the end of July.