Las Cruces City Council Indefinitely Tables ARPA Nonprofit Allocation
A resolution authorizing the allocation of nonprofit American Rescue Plan Act funding was tabled indefinitely Tuesday by the Las Cruces City Council.
The decision follows the publication of an internal city audit, released earlier this year, which reports the eligibility process for nonprofit selection "was not sufficiently designed or documented to support clear, consistent, and transparent eligibility determinations."
Originally, more than 20 local nonprofit organizations applied for portions of the over $10 million available to offset the effects of the pandemic for nonprofits.
Of that pool, nine were ultimately approved—though auditors cited a lack of documentation during the initial eligibility process as one potential cause for concern.
City Manager Ifo Pili told council procedures concerning the original request-for-proposal process were strictly followed by staff.
“I know that it can get out there that there's some ill intent or anything that was involved with this,” Pili said. “But this is really an attempt to really try and get these funds out to the public as soon as possible, come up with a process that none of us had any prior experience coming up with.”
City staff asked council to consider if the city should implement a new selection process entirely or if the eligibility review process should be repeated with the original applications.
Lori Martinez, the executive director of Ngage New Mexico, says her organization’s request of approximately $1.84 million was deemed ineligible. She says the process leading up to that decision should be re-examined.
“I think nonprofits should be given the chance to respond to the eligibility determination because that is somewhat subjective,” Martinez said. “I don't doubt the city staffs’ expertise, and I don't think there's any mal-intent in this process at all. But I do believe it is a subjective process that should be held up to the light.”
While the city is still debating the next steps for the allocation of funds, Councilor Johana Bencomo says urgency is needed to determine the next steps.
“Us waiting is frankly, having a full wallet and turning our backs on people,” Bencomo said. “And so, I do think there's a sense of urgency that I think we should move on this quickly.”
Mayor Ken Miyagishima advocated strongly for a dedicated work session to hear from key stakeholders, something Councilor Becky Corran spoke out against, advocating for the city to repeat the eligibility review process.
“I don't think that the council should be parsing out whether or not things are worthy or eligible,” Corran said. “That seems deeply problematic, even more problematic than the process that we already sort of audited. And so, I would like to speak on the record that I support option one, and trust that the city staff who are equipped to do this would have the best inputs.”
The city has until 2024 to determine how the funding will be allocated.