The Morgan Hill Grange, located at 40 Fourth St., plans to use ARPA funds granted by the city to help install a new air-conditioning unit, which will open the facility for more public use during the summertime. 

Nine local nonprofits will use a portion of the City of Morgan Hill’s federal Covid-19 relief funds to provide some much-needed assistance for people and groups who have struggled financially due to the pandemic.

At the Oct. 20 Morgan Hill City Council meeting, the council unanimously approved grants totaling $100,000 for the nine nonprofits. The grants are funded from the city’s nearly $11 million share of the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion federal stimulus program signed by President Joe Biden in March.

Councilmember Yvonne Martinez Beltran thanked all the local nonprofit organizations that have helped many Morgan Hill residents survive the pandemic. “We could have never made it without you,” Martinez Beltran said.

The council in September directed staff to begin accepting applications for local ARPA-funded grants. Nonprofits submitted their funding request and listed their exact proposed uses for the funds. Requirements included that the funds must be used to support the community, and must be for one-time use only, among others. Preference was given to nonprofits that are able to use the grant funds to provide a direct service to people or businesses in Morgan Hill. 

The ARPA-funded grants approved by the council Oct. 20 are:

– St. Vincent de Paul at St. Catherine Parish: $27,518 for financial assistance to families for utility bills.

– Indian Association of South Santa Clara County: $2,457 for Care packages, groceries, tutoring for the homeless, farmworkers and others.

– Morgan Hill Kiwanis: $8,190 for spring 2022 scholarships for graduating seniors who were impacted by the pandemic.

– Community Agency for Resources, Advocacy and Services (C.A.R.A.S.): $16,380 for outreach and case management assistance for past due rent support.

– Community Solutions: $8,190 for the organization’s emergency fund for clients (food, gas, utilities, household needs).

– Chabad South County Jewish Center: $8,190 for food care packages as well as social, cultural and educational events.

– Morgan Hill Grange: $16,380 for an air conditioner for the Grange building on Fourth Street, enhancing the facility’s ability to serve as a summertime cooling station and other community gathering needs.

– PitStop Outreach: $410 for facemasks and hand sanitizer for the homeless, and mileage reimbursement for volunteers.

– Youth Alliance: $12,285 for a health outreach campaign to neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by Covid-19.

A motion made by Councilmember Gino Borgioli at the Oct. 20 meeting would have included a $10,000 grant for the Morgan Hill Community Foundation, but the proposal failed to gain a majority vote.

Ultimately, the council unanimously approved the list above, which was recommended by city staff.

Representatives of some of the nonprofits that applied for the ARPA grants spoke at the Oct. 20 council meeting.

St. Vincent De Paul runs a food pantry at St. Catherine Church on Peak Avenue that grew increasingly busy after the pandemic started. The nonprofit—with the help of grants from the Community Foundation—has also helped local families pay their past-due rent, St. Vincent De Paul volunteer Carol Lillig told the council.

But now, the “greater need” seems to be among families unable to pay their PG&E and city water bills, Lillig said. She noted that there are about 200 families in Morgan Hill who are currently delinquent on their water bills.

With the funds granted by the city Oct. 20, “We would require they join a payment plan, and we would use a combination of our own funds as well as these grant funds from the city, to really relieve the burden of these bills that have piled up since Covid-19,” Lillig said.

The Morgan Hill Grange will use its $16,000-plus grant toward the purchase of an air-conditioning unit for the building located at 40 Fourth St. The structure and its nonprofit operator have tried to raise funds for an air conditioning unit before, and have even lobbied the city for the money in the past. Limits on public gatherings since the pandemic started have severely cut the facility’s revenue from rental and use fees.

The Grange is one of the largest event venues and meeting facilities available to the public in Morgan Hill. The building’s main community room can hold up to 200 people.

Councilmembers and Grange representatives noted that since the pandemic started, the building has been used for Covid-19 testing and outreach for vaccinations. Local organizations like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have used the Grange for years, and monthly meals are served for seniors on site. 

But the lack of air-conditioning limits the Grange’s use in the summertime, according to those who addressed the council Oct. 20. 

“Our Boy Scout Troop 730 has had a very long relationship with the Grange,” reads an email from Morgan Hill resident Lynn Liebschutz to the council. “During this time we have witnessed, helped with and supported multiple events where the Grange has provided facilities, contribution and in-person involvement for the success of the event. Their request for air conditioning will allow the Grange to provide even more” to the community.

Jose Martinez-Saldana, of the Youth Alliance, told the council that the nonprofit has worked directly with low-income families in South County to ensure their financial needs are met during the pandemic. With the $12,000-plus granted by the council, the alliance will continue that work.

“You have our assurance we’re not going anywhere. Morgan Hill is part of the community we serve, and we’re going to be there for the long haul,” Martinez-Saldana said.

Earlier this year, the council voted to use most of its $11 million share of the ARPA funds to directly fund city services, which have suffered due to revenue losses related to the pandemic and business closures.

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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