Whitmer administration uses federal funds to boost local nonprofits across Michigan

By Kyle Kaminski

December 4, 2023

Millions of dollars provided to Michigan through President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act will help support hundreds of nonprofit organizations across the state.

MICHIGAN—About $35 million in federal grant funding has been sent out to support nearly 1,400 nonprofit organizations across Michigan—all of which were selected by state officials because they provided key services to their local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Michigan Nonprofit Association and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity last month announced the recipients of the Michigan Nonprofit Relief Fund.

The bipartisan relief program was signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as part of the state budget, and the funding came from COVID-19 relief funds that were awarded to Michigan as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in 2021.

“Michigan’s nonprofits uplift communities, create jobs, and make a real difference in people’s lives,” Whitmer said in a statement announcing the grants this month. “The Michigan Nonprofit Relief Fund will ensure eligible nonprofits have the resources they need to continue providing critical services that lift Michiganders out of poverty and support regions across our state.

Why now?

Recent reports show that Michigan’s economy is poised to recover all of the jobs that were lost in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic—likely sometime within the next couple months. But while businesses have bounced back, the state’s nonprofit sector hasn’t been as fortunate.

Surveys that were taken throughout the pandemic by the Michigan Nonprofit Association reportedly showed a 53% drop in fundraising dollars compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Kelly Kuhn, president and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association, said the grant funding will provide “much-needed” resources to nonprofit groups that work to create jobs, educate children, prevent food insecurity, end homelessness, expand healthcare, and “uplift” their communities.

“The past few years have been unprecedented,” Kuhn said during a recent press call. “Michigan’s nonprofits have faced incredible challenges, yet they have displayed incredible resilience, adaptability, and an unwavering commitment to their communities. They have been on the frontlines offering lifelines to those in need when times were the toughest.”

Who got funding?

A total of 1,378 nonprofit organizations across every region of the state received grants of up to $25,000 through the Michigan Nonprofit Relief Fund. (Click here to check out the full list.)

Among them:

Isaiah’s Hub Youth Center in Jackson, which received the maximum $25,000 grant.

Founder John Willis said the 52,000-square-foot community center serves as a before- and after-school hub for local teenagers to “develop into great people”—which includes keeping them busy with a basketball court, stage, computer center, music studio, kitchen, and more.

The grant will help cover operational costs, as well as develop new programs, Willis said.

The Firecracker Foundation, a Lansing-area nonprofit organization dedicated to ending child sexual abuse, also received a grant to cover its operational costs and create new programs.

“We have struggled, but we have not stopped putting in the work to serve our community. We have not stopped showing up,” said founding co-director Tashmica Torok, who credited the recent grant funding for the ability to keep the organization staffed through the end of the year.

How were they picked?

The recently awarded grant funds came to Michigan through Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, with the grant program itself managed through a partnership between the Michigan Nonprofit Association and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

The funding was limited to small nonprofits with less than $1 million in annual revenue, which also had to demonstrate that the pandemic had negatively impacted their usual operations.

State officials said the grants were specifically awarded in Michigan communities that had been deemed most affected by the pandemic—especially to nonprofit organizations in the state’s rural areas and to groups that primarily serve underrepresented communities of color in Michigan.

What’s next?

Kim Trent, director for prosperity at the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Development, said the grant funding is “vital for helping to remove barriers to economic prosperity.” And thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act, more help is still on the way.

“Because we recognize the critical importance of nonprofit partners, we created two funds to support this work,” Trent told reporters on a recent press call announcing the grant awards. “Michigan’s nonprofits work everyday to uplift their communities and bolster the economy.”

In addition to the Nonprofit Relief Fund, Michigan is also set to provide another $15 million to larger nonprofit organizations through a separate federally funded initiative called the MI Impact Grant Program. Officials said that program is designed to support nonprofit groups that are working to lift Michiganders out of poverty and into jobs that can provide a more livable wage.

READ MORE: Two Michigan cities use federal funds to address housing crisis

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Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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