The effects of the pandemic have depressed local government budgets at the same time communities need help bouncing back from a year under lockdown, and AARP Kentucky says its Community Challenge grant program aims to fill the gap.
This year, said Charlotte Whittaker, the group’s state president, the focus is on projects that help spur local recovery, improve public spaces and boost public transportation services. She urged communities to get creative when they apply for these grants.
“Maybe a library would want more iPads to be able to loan out for families to connect,” she said. “There’s just a lot of ‘neat things’ that can be done during this time that maybe we hadn’t thought of in 2020.”
Over the years, she said, Community Challenge grants have helped create and improve open spaces, parks and access to other outdoor amenities. Research from the Trust for Public Land found that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of public outdoor spaces for people’s physical and mental health, but sharp drops in local tax revenue have put funding for these spaces on the back burner in many communities.
Whittaker said the AARP grants also will prioritize projects that offer local solutions to address racial equity.
“There’s still time,” she said, “and we just encourage, like I said, our nonprofits, our cities, our counties, to step to the plate and apply.”
The program is open to nonprofits and governments, but Whittaker noted that other organizations can apply and are considered on a case-by-case basis. Grants can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand, or tens of thousands for larger projects. The application deadline is April 14.