Nonprofit groups can now apply for grant awards up to $7,500 for qualified projects

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Columbia River PUD directors discuss an amendment to a resolution during a board meeting Tuesday, Nov. 20. Directors voted to increase the budget for a recently launched grant program.A recently launched economic development grant program at Columbia River People's Utility District is getting a bigger budget.

Directors unanimously voted Tuesday, Nov. 20, to amend the new program to increase the individual grant amount from $5,000 to $7,500.

The program was launched in April as a way to "promote investment in long-term economic development and growth of business and industry" in the PUD's service territory. When it was first approved earlier this year, the grant program came with a modest $15,500 budget allotment. Since starting the program, the PUD has awarded a grant to the Top Notch Thrift Store in St. Helens, which

supports the St. Helens

Senior Center, as well as St. Helens Economic Development Corp.

Since then, a committee made up of PUD staff recommended boosting the grant awards as a way to increase the number of applicants.

"The Board believes that a small portion of CRPUD resources could be used to make significant improvements in the community ..." an amended resolution states.

Allowing larger grant awards means the budget for the program jumped from $15,500 to $37,500 in the 2019 budget.

Jake Carter, PUD board president, said PUD staff and directors evaluated the program and determined increasing the grant amounts would "make a bigger impact."

"Right out of the gate we had people signing up and we had one max out at the $5,000," Carter noted after Tuesday's meeting. "We're just trying to broaden the program."

Only nonprofit corporations are eligible to apply for grants through the program, and those nonprofits must not employ or compensate anyone who works for or governs the PUD.

Provisions in state law allow PUDs to establish grant programs or other similar agreements as long as the purpose is to promote economic growth or the expansion of business and industry within the special district's boundaries, PUD documents note.

Other PUDs, such as those in Tillamook and Wasco counties, also utilize an economic development program.

In addition to the economic development grant program, the PUD also recently established a vehicle wash program for nonprofit corporations in Columbia County. That program allows nonprofits to sign up to wash PUD vehicles for $300.

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