Last week, Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor decided the Lowcountry Food Bank should receive more than $5,000 in federal grant funds, so he stripped $21,000 from three other nonprofit groups: Metanoia Community Development Corp., Florence Crittenton programs for homeless single parents and Pro Bono Legal Services.
Council Vice Chairman Elliott Summey then stepped in to restore funding to Metanoia, in North Charleston, during a council committee meeting.
"They are a beacon of light in that area," Summey said.
So Summey took $10,000 from the Charleston homeless shelter Crisis Ministries and $5,000 from Mount Pleasant economic development and gave it to Metanoia.
With nearly $1 million in federal funds to be divided among nonprofit groups, council members are asserting their own priorities and changing funding recommendations that were developed through a scoring system and a review by a county grants committee.
The funding back-and-forth between the council members is likely to continue after a public hearing tonight on the Community Development Block Grant funding. A final vote is scheduled during a regular council meeting that follows the hearing.
Some council members have objected to the changes.
"I'm always hesitant when politicians at the last minute make changes," Councilman Dickie Schweers said during the committee meeting.
The grant money is used for a broad range of purposes. Proposed funding awards range from providing safe drinking water to rural residents and meals to the homebound elderly to development of the Ravenel Depot Railroad Museum to the creation of low-cost office space for new businesses in Mount Pleasant.
"The process, from start to finish, is ... interesting," said Crisis Ministries Executive Director Stacey Denaux.
She said that, although Crisis Ministries could receive $10,000 less than recommended under Summey's recommendation, the organization is "delighted" with the amount of funding remaining, a combined total of $115,000 from CDBG and an emergency shelter program.
The requests for federal grant money routinely exceed the supply, and this year was no different, with more than $6 requested for each dollar available. The requests were scored against the county's federally approved five-year plan, then vetted by a 13-member committee of County Council appointees and local municipal officials.
In addition to this year's estimated $981,939 in county CDBG grants, there is $546,813 in federal Home Investment Partnership Program funding for housing-related programs, and $117,894 for emergency shelter programs.
Of the more than $1.6 million spent at the county's discretion, nearly a quarter-million-dollars will be spent on county planning and administration of the grant program. County Grants Administrator Christine DuRant said that is not a high amount of overhead.
DuRant said that, while County Council members might shift some money from one group to another, they aren't changing the list of groups recommended for funding, and that's an important distinction.