By Michael Bielawski
The Shelburne Equity & Diversity Committee has received a $10,000 grant that was originally intended as COVID response funds according to a shelburnevt.org post shared as a news tip recently with the VDC.
“July 21, 2022: Shelburne’s Equity and Diversity Committee would like to publicly express our gratitude and thanks to the Vermont COVID-19 Response Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation for awarding the Equity and Diversity Committee a $10,000 grant to be used for the work of the committee,” it states at vermontcf.org.
VDC reached out by phone to all four select board members who have their numbers listed simply asking what the money was used for. The messages were left on Friday and there’s been no return as of Monday at 11 AM.
According to the minutes of one of their meetings on Aug. 14 of this year, it explains where some of the money may have gone.
“Look at existing consultant contract – understand where/how that language shapes the next contract and bring back to next meeting to inform proposal and vote for next consultant contract,” is in the meeting’s action items.
The grants were intended for those in need amid the shutdowns associated with COVID-19. The Vermont Community Foundation which oversaw its distribution has the following on its website, dated at April 3, 2020.
“The Vermont Community Foundation distributed the first round of grants, totaling $380,000, from its Vermont COVID-19 Response Fund during the week of March 23rd,” it states. “The grants ranged from $5,000 to $30,000 and were made specifically to entities addressing homelessness, working on the frontlines with vulnerable populations, and providing basic needs, such as meals and food access to homebound seniors.”
It goes on that “community-based organizations” can receive money but it doesn’t go into further specifics.
“A portion of the grants went to community-based organizations like community-action agencies and coordinated-entry lead agencies that have critical programs for individuals and families experiencing poverty, including food shelves, housing, and more,” it states.
Misuse of COVID funds a national problem
The problem of people and groups misusing COVID-relief funds is not a new notion. In an NBC News report from 2022, about $80 billion or 10% of the total federal money intended for COVID relief went to other causes and in many cases the outright purchasing of luxury items.
“Many who participated in what prosecutors are calling the largest fraud in U.S. history — the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money intended to help those harmed by the coronavirus pandemic — couldn’t resist purchasing luxury automobiles. Also mansions, private jet flights and swanky vacations,” the report states.
The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle.
Categories: Local government