Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc. got $ 66,000 PPP loan some say it shouldn’t have qualified for
Members of the South Burlingame Neighborhood Association are speaking out against a neighborhood coalition that has received more than $ 66,000 in loan from the Paycheck Protection Program.
South Burlingame is one of 17 neighborhood associations under the umbrella of Southwest Neighborhoods Inc. (SWNI.) Neighborhood coalitions are primarily funded by the City of Portland’s Office of Community and Civic Life and serve as a hub for community awareness and engagement. They aim to increase citizen participation in decision-making and planning processes.
Sylvia Bogert, executive director of SWNI, said the nonprofit applied for a federal loan from the Small Business Administration through the Paycheck Protection Program and received $ 66,300 in May. The reason? The coalition expects to lose the revenue it normally receives from advertisers for a regular newspaper it distributes, and is bracing for possible cuts to its annual funding for the City of Portland in the fall.
“The ability of our board of directors to raise additional funds to cover our operating costs is limited,” said Bogert.
The federal forgivable loan program was created to help small businesses and nonprofit groups stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic and to avoid employee layoffs. SWNI has eight employees, half of them part-time, and operates with an annual budget of around $ 370,000, according to financial records on the coalition’s website.
“It was pointed out to us that the city was going to face a huge financial impact due to COVID,” Bogert said. “[The loan] is when there is economic uncertainty, which we are uncertain about. ”
She said new wording in the city’s budget now says the city could terminate or change its grant agreement if it doesn’t have funding.
South Burlingame members point out that the latest iteration of the city’s budget did not propose cuts to SWNI funding. They said SWNI did not need the PPP loan because the organization is funded by a municipal contract and has around $ 70,000 in reserves to cover expenses or lost income.
“SWNI and several other Portland neighborhood coalitions have applied for Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans while SWNI is still funded by Civic Life, Bureau of Environmental Services and West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District in taxpayer dollars. at the same stable level as in 2019/2020 although other offices have reduced their spending, ”the SBNA said in a press release.
The neighborhood association formally disclaimed any connection to the loan program plans. “SWNI has received PPP funds which should be of service to businesses that really need it because SWNI did not cut hours or lay off staff during the COVID period and showed little to no impact on COVID-19 related operations. ”
The municipal office that funds SWNI also raised eyebrows, discouraging SWNI from moving money to use the PPP loan. Suk Rhee, director of the Office of Community and Civic Life, said the coalition cannot carry over some of the city funds it receives, if it ends up with a surplus after the P3 loan.
“We do not have and will not offer an option to carry over unspent or redirected funds from FY ’19-20 to FY ’20-21 uses for this grant,” Rhee said.
SWNI plans to use the funds to focus on communication and outreach to communities in Southwest Portland, and will reallocate up to $ 25,000 in loan funds to community groups, professional associations, organizations and organizations. neighborhood associations, in the form of grants of $ 1,000.
“We call it the Community Engagement Allowance Program,” Bogert said. “It’s about strengthening collaboration and coordinating volunteers. We encourage projects that engage with underserved populations.”
Shannon Hiller-Webb, vice president of South Burlingame and representative of SWNI, says this is far from PPP goals.
“The SWNI PPP loan was not in line with the intent or spirit of the program by taking a loan for the payroll and then attempting to reallocate the city grant money to avoid returning the ‘PPP loan money,’ Hiller-Webb said. demand the PPP loan to cover the payroll, and neither should we look for ways to spend the money from this grant to avoid losing it for the city. ”
One group considering applying, the Hillsdale Neighborhood Association, intends to use most of the funds to send postcards to notify residents of upcoming HNA virtual meetings. The remainder of the money would go towards paying for a memorial oak tree, dubbed a “pandemic tree,” to be planted on the south side of Capitol Highway, according to HNA meeting minutes.
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