Big Bear Lake, CA — A host of local social service agencies and non-profits were in attendance at Monday’s City Council meeting, to make their pleas for federal funding through Community Development Block Grants, which are administered by the County of San Bernardino based on recommendations made by the City Council of Big Bear Lake. Prior to presentations from 10 different groups, the City’s Jim Miller explained to Council’s Mayor Liz Harris, Bill Jahn, Michael Karp and Darrell Mulvihill (Rick Herrick abstained from the discussion due to conflict of interest), “We are faced with a few new challenges this year… last year, we basically had enough money to fund all requests we received.” The City of Big Bear Lake has roughly $40,000 in CDBG funds to distribute to agencies that, among other criteria, principally benefit low and moderate-income residents while also meeting urgent need. Part of the limitations for this current year is that a $10,000 threshold must be met, meaning that recipients must receive that minimum amount (whether funded wholly by City allocations, or from City and County), whereas last year, the City could administer CDBG funding at $5,000 per applicant, so there were 10 beneficiaries sharing in roughly $50,000 in funding.
Presented with this, the Council of four heard presentations from the MOM Project, BVUSD’s Healthy Start, Soroptimists on behalf of Rainbow Kids Club, U.S. Adaptive Recreation, the Hummingbird Project, Lutheran Social Services’ phone outreach for seniors, Kiwanis Club on behalf of the Medical Alert program for seniors, family therapy services through DOVES, the Big Bear Library’s literacy program, and the senior nutrition program offered through the Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District. As noted by Councilmember Jahn, “This is one of the toughest jobs we have; there is such a great need, and so little money.”
While noting that “this is an agonizing process,” Mayor Harris asked fellow Councilmembers to prioritize their choices for funding, in case there could only be four local recipients. Of those, the three garnering the most support were the free parent education and support classes offered through the Bear Valley Community Healthcare District’s MOM Project; the Healthy Start counseling and referral services which, per the program’s Tanya Perry, serviced more than 650 BVUSD students and their families last year; and the Kiwanis-sponsored Medical Alert services for low-income and disabled seniors. In a tie for fourth, Council selected the Big Bear Library’s literacy program, which also offers free math and computer tutoring, and the efforts of Soroptimists, who provide tuition subsidies for families who utilize Rainbow Kids Club day care, especially as the Rec and Park District has lost key funding grants to assist in full tuition for 40 families this year. The Big Bear Hummingbird Project, which provides for low-income students’ school supplies, shoes, haircuts and recreational tuition scholarships, placed sixth on Council’s priority list.
To have heard the pleas from each non-profit was heart-wrenching, as each provides such vital services so, in an effort to continue these important local programs (as well as the Lighthouse Project’s educational gardening project), City Manager Jeff Mathieu proposed that for each agency that was not selected for CDBG funding, the City of Big Bear Lake would allot them at least $5,000 from the General Fund during upcoming budget considerations, a decision that the Council supported.