HELENA – About $ 3.8 million in federal funds to expand after-school programs will be allocated this week, as planned, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen – although organizations seeking the money won’t have never submitted a formal request.
“Our goal is not to turn anyone away,” she told MTN News in an interview on Friday. “So we are on the right track. … We just had to take a look to make sure that with the extra children we’re serving we can.
Earlier in the fall, the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) in Arntzen had scheduled the announcement of the grants for this Wednesday.
But organizations that submitted an “intention to apply” letter in early November told MTN News last week that they had yet to receive an application and were not told exactly how. which grants would proceed.
They said the OPI told them it had been “overwhelmed” by more than expected interest in extracurricular grants and was reassessing the process.
Jeff Kirksey, OPI’s program director for federal COVID-19 relief funds, said on Friday that the awards would be awarded based on information submitted in letters of intent.
The office was expecting around 30 applicants, but received 83, he said. Of these, 75 were deemed eligible, he added.
All of these applicants should receive money, he said, based on a formula that will take into account the number of children served, the economic needs of the region and the location served. However, with the number of applicants higher than expected, the money could end up funding just two years of expanded programs, instead of the three years originally announced, Kirksey said.
Suppliers who spoke to MTN News said they were happy to hear that the funds will be announced next week, which may give them enough time to expand their programs for the next school semester.
Still, they said the “Intent to Apply” letter they submitted, by design, did not contain many details about their proposal.
“They change the rules mid-game,” said Abby Turner, executive director of Montana Science Center in Bozeman. “We thought there would be another round. We thought we could explain ourselves more.
Kelly Posewitz, executive director of Exploration Works of Helena, another money-seeking after-school program, said on Friday that her letter of intent didn’t even say how much money she was asking for, nor our detailed description of how which it would be spent.
The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which is the COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congressional Democrats and enacted by President Biden in early March.
State lawmakers earmarked the $ 3.8 million in funds for after-school programs in a bill they passed in late April, intended to expand programs statewide and make it more affordable, to help alleviate the shortage of child care services in the state.
This is also only 1% of federal ARPA funds for schools in Montana.
Artnzen’s office manages the expenses of this 390 million dollars. The biggest chunk – $ 344 million for school districts to meet COVID-19-related spending – is just starting to be spent, though schools have budgeted most of the money over the next three years, Kirksey said.
The money will be spent on various programs, but the largest totals will go to recruiting additional staff and staff, as well as improving buildings, such as updated heating and ventilation systems, a he declared.
Arntzen said after-school programs could also supplement their scholarships by applying for grants for summer schooling – another $ 3.8 million pot of federal ARPA money in Montana.
The Arntzen office has not yet put in place the process for allocating these funds.