New Philly fund offers residents a chance to send $15K to neighborhood groups

Mural in Philly

Artists Tisha Golafaie (left) and Symone Salib (right) with their 'We Did That' mural. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philadelphia’s newest COVID-19 recovery fund aims to provide an economic lifeline to neighborhood-based organizations. But in an unconventional twist, the grant program will offer neighborhood residents a say in where the money goes.

The Neighborhood Equitable Recovery Fund, launched Friday, aims to offer a community-driven grantmaking process where residents would be responsible for evaluating applicants, determining funding priorities, and making funding decisions. It’s a partnership between the city’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity and Bread & Roses Community Fund.

The idea is to have communities decide and implement their own solutions.

“We believe it is the people doing the work and impacted by injustice who know best where the money needs to go,” said Casey Cook, executive director of Bread & Roses Community Fund.

The initiative will send grants of $15,000 to 25 Philadelphia-based nonprofits. To be eligible, organizations must have annual operating budgets of less than $3 million and operate in at least one of the 15 city ZIP codes with poverty rates greater than or equal to the city average of 25%.

To compete for the funds, groups must have been active continuously in the year prior to the pandemic, working in those targeted areas to address economic and health issues such as health education, food distribution, and family support.

Organizations can use the funds to pay payroll, rent, mortgage, utilities, and other operating expenses. Organizations are also allowed to use the funding to provide or organize mutual aid projects.

Nonprofit organizations going through financial hardship, at risk of closing or reducing services because of the pandemic, are encouraged to apply.

“Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic hit communities of color and those with low incomes the hardest, but it has also highlighted and exacerbated the inequities created by systemic racism that many community-based nonprofit organizations have long been challenging,” said Mitchell Little, executive director of the Office of Community Empowerment. “We must center the experiences and priorities of residents to ensure that the solutions come from the ground-up and not the other way around.”

All applications must be submitted through an online portal.

There will be a virtual information session on May 20 from 1 to 2 p.m. The deadline is June 7.

There will be a second cycle of grantmaking through this fund in the fall.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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