TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Recovery Advisory Committee met Aug. 1 for the first time to discuss the distribution of COVID-19 relief money it received at the county level. The relief money will be issued out in three rounds and recipients will be chosen based on an application process. 

By the end of November, the committee plans to make award announcements for round one. Round two will open in January and close in March, and by the end of 2023, the committee plans to close out its projects. Committee members will have meetings throughout this period to work with administrators at the county level about maintaining the program, which will dole out leftover funds thanks to a surplus created by the millions the county received through the American Relief Plan Act.

You can watch the full meeting here.

The committee consists of Tompkins County legislators Dan Klein, Shawna Black, Lee Shurtleff, Anne Koreman, Veronica Pillar and Deborah Dawson. Consultant firm MRB Group out of Syracuse is assisting with the process, and staff members from the Planning and Sustainability Department and Youth Services were also present at the initial meeting.

Committee members said that with this program, a goal should be to attend to impacts of COVID-19, respond to diversity, equity and inclusion justice needs, build long-term capacity of local communities, increase sustainability, support non-profit organizations and small businesses, and address long-term and critical needs of gaps in local services. At least for the latter, COVID-19 laid bare plenty of insufficiencies that already existed, but amplified their impacts.

As of the committee’s first meeting, applicants for funding include non-profits, independently owned businesses with less than 100 employees, educational institutions, healthcare providers, and municipalities and government entities. The application process for funding candidates will operate on a sliding scale: the more funding an applicant requests, the more in-depth its application. The committee said they set up an equitable scale for funding so as not to put up too many barriers for smaller organizations.

From the application, the committee will have a scoring system for applicants. The scoring system will be a tool in distributing funds, but it is not the only tool that will be used. Though committee members said they will have ongoing discussions regarding scoring criteria, they suggested a few qualifications. The committee suggested that scoring may be based upon qualities such as fulfilling unmet needs of underserved individuals, families or communities or having unique solutions to an unmet need.

The committee will continue to meet monthly to further define scoring criteria and how to best distribute recovery funds.