Southern California First 5 Commissions Help Communities Draw Down Federal Dollars

Jul 26, 2009 | Newsroom


LOS ANGELES——First 5 Commissions in Southern California are helping local community-based organizations and agencies seeking federal stimulus funds to maintain and expand critical education and safety net programs for young children during the economic downturn.

Last month, First 5 LA committed $4 million in matching funds to local community-based organizations applying for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants, also known as federal stimulus funding. About 40 local organizations applied to leverage First 5 LA funding in order to support their applications for federal funds.

First 5 LA and other Southern California First 5 commissions also are providing technical support, including grant-writing assistance, to local organizations applying for ARRA grants. The federal ARRA makes $787 billion in stimulus funds available to local government and community-based organizations for efforts ranging from job development to early education programs.

“With soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, First 5 Commissions want to do their part to help our most vulnerable children and families and make wise investments in the communities we serve in Southern California,” said Evelyn V. Martinez, executive director of First 5 LA. “Helping local children’s programs tap federal funds that benefit children and families in this time of great need makes sense.”

Another First 5 commission, the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, has set aside a $250,000 ARRA grant match for the Orangewood Children’s Foundation, an organization that serves children in Orange County’s foster care system. The commission is also providing grant writing and technical assistance to support the Early Head Start funding application.

“We are maximizing both federal and state leveraging opportunities to strengthen the safety net programs for the growing number of families with young children that need assistance,” said Michael Ruane, executive director of the Children and Families Commission of Orange County. “Through strategic partnerships with both the County of Orange and the business community we are responding to the statewide funding gaps that impact critical programs.”

First 5 Imperial County is partnering with the Riverside Office of Education Head Start to secure ARRA funding and provide more than $200,000 in matching funds to expand services to migrant farmworker families with young children in Imperial County. First 5 Santa Barbara County and First 5 Ventura County, along with a group of county departments and local non-profit agencies, are each working to secure stimulus funding for children and family programs in those counties, while San Bernardino’s First 5 Commission is offering technical assistance and staff resources for local organizations applying for ARRA grants.

In response to the recession, Southern California’s First 5 Commissions are taking a variety of other actions to strenthen or expand safety net services in their respective counties, such as:

  • Orange County has expanded services at community health care clinics, transitional housing shelters, and the 211 telephone information and referral system that connects families to services.
  • First 5 Imperial is working with other agencies it funds to support farmworker families with additional services including health care and literacy programs.
  • First 5 Santa Barbara County has focused on workforce development in early childhood education and has been working to increase federal funding to local Family Resource Centers to support families in need.
  • First 5 San Bernardino offered $1.3 million in “Emerging Needs” grants to local community-based organizations to provide services that include emergency assistance for families with children ages 0-5 in need of food, diapers, shelter and transportation. It is also working with the Children’s Health Initiative to mitigate the impact of a possible decrease in funding for health care coverage in that county.
  • First 5 San Diego has enhanced and stabilized funding of developmental, health care access and oral health services, as well as the 211 information and referral system and support services for young children in foster care.
  • First 5 Ventura County has spearheaded Ventura County Together, a task force that brings 29 non-profits, agencies and faith groups together to find collaborative solutions to local economic needs. The commission also has committed an additional $240,000 to address basic needs for children 0-5 and families in the county.

About First 5 Commissions

First 5 Commissions are child advocacy and grant-making organizations created by California voters to invest Proposition 10 tobacco tax revenues to support programs for improving the lives of children from prenatal through age 5 in California.

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