We recently wrote an article about our research into $9,000,000 of taxpayer American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money that was doled out to 48 El Paso County non-profit organizations. In summary, each organization came up with a program or expanded on an existing program to assist El Paso County residents with COVID-19 pandemic recovery. The organizations were supposed to use the money to aid the community with counseling, substance abuse, mental health, behavioral health, suicide prevention, employment assistance, financial and debt counseling or budgeting, legal aid to prevent eviction or homelessness, or food insecurity.
Here’s the full list of the organizations that received the money:
|Pikes Peak United Way||$1,200,000|
|Care & Share Food Bank Inc||$700,000|
|Mountain Springs Church||$400,000|
|Silver Key Senior Services Inc||$400,000|
|Springs Recovery Connection||$400,000|
|Aspenpointe Health Services||$400,000|
|Mt Carmel Veterans Service Center||$300,000|
|Joint Initiatives for Youth and Families||$300,000|
|Inside Out Youth Services||$300,000|
|Solid Rock Community Development||$250,000|
|Food To Power||$250,000|
|Springs Rescue Mission||$230,000|
|Catholic Charities of Colorado||$200,000|
|United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum||$200,000|
|Careers in Construction Colorado||$150,000|
|Crossroads Turning Points Inc||$150,000|
|Homeward Pikes Peak||$150,000|
|Kingdom Builder’s Family Life||$150,000|
|Atlas Preparatory School||$148,000|
|Community Partnership for Children||$110,000|
|Boys and Girls Club||$100,000|
|Suicide Prevention Partnership of the Pikes Peak Region||$93,200|
|Crossfire Ministries Inc||$72,000|
|The Colorado Springs Child Nursery||$70,000|
|Heartspace Kids Inc||$70,000|
|Dream Centers-Mary’s Home||$68,800|
|CASA of the Pikes Peak Region||$60,000|
|Cheyenne Village Inc||$60,000|
|El Paso Pride Soccer Associate||$50,000|
|Project Angel Heart||$50,000|
|The Salvation Army||$50,000|
|Converge Lecture Series||$35,000|
|Garden of the Gods Foundation||$30,000|
|The Mindfulness and Positivity||$30,000|
|Colorado Springs Conservatory||$25,000|
|The Catamount Institute||$25,000|
|Southern Colorado Athletic Club||$20,000|
|Rocky Mountain Women’s Film||$15,000|
|Colorado Springs Sports Corporation||$15,000|
|Dance Alliance of the Pikes Peak Region||$10,000|
|Times of Refreshing Tabernacle||$7,000|
Below is a highlight of one of the grant award recipients: the Olympic Museum. We’ll share more as we look into other recipients.
The Olympic Museum
El Paso County has a history of handing over our hard-earned dollars to the Olympic Museum. Who can forget the trade the county made with the museum just last summer? They gave the museum $500,000 of our taxpayer money in exchange for free museum passes for county employees.
This time around, what did the county buy in exchange for the $200,000 taxpayer-funded Community Impact Grant from the ARPA federal taxpayer money?
They paid for “resiliency.”
The Olympic Museum has had a “Becoming Your Personal Olympic Best” program since 2013. Becoming Your Personal Olympic Best has 17 full-time employees. In its grant application, the museum reported that the ARPA money would be used to help lower-income schools complete a program called Becoming Your Personal Olympic Best: A Resilient Future for Colorado Students. The first part of the program is virtual and taught by Harrison School District 4th-8th grade educators. A capstone of the project was described as, “an onsite immersive experience with instructions and direct interaction with an Olympic Athlete.”
In its application, the Olympic Museum reported it faced increased expenses and costs during COVID-19, and saw a substantial revenue decline. Maybe that’s because the projected museum visitor numbers were overly inflated from the get-go, and the ticket sales haven’t lived up to their expectations? This has been a boondoggle —pandemic or not. Taxpayers should not be on the hook for it.
Specific to youth programming and this Community Impact Grant, the museum grant request reported a dramatically increased need to expand its curriculum offerings to provide resiliency for youth who suffered severe mental health consequences during the pandemic. The application went on to detail that the social isolation caused by shutdown of schools, fear, and uncertainty over the virus exacerbated health impacts within families of color, and differing public health responses contributed to a decline in youth mental health.
Here is some more information on the Becoming Your Personal Olympic Best Program.
Will the students who complete this program be more resilient as a result of the spending? We’ll never know if we got what we paid for. There is no concrete way to measure the outcome of this program. This is feel-good money handed out by politicians and bureaucrats. There may or may not be a problem and this grant may or may not be the solution. Government’s solution is to throw our money at it.
Taxpayers need to stop looking to government to solve every problem — whether real or imaginary. Government needs to stick to the core functions: public safety, roads, and infrastructure.
Contact your County Commissioners, and ask how they believe your taxpayer money should be spent. It’s time for some accountability and fiscal restraint, as we all face these unprecedented inflationary times.
Cami Bremer CamiBremer@elpasoco.com
Carrie Geitner CarrieGeitner@elpasoco.com
Longinos Gonzalez LonginosGonzalezJr@elpasoco.com
Stan Vanderwerf firstname.lastname@example.org
Holly Williams HollyWilliams@elpasoco.com