JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A bill introduced by Council President Scott Wilson at the request of Mayor Lenny Curry would increase Kids Hope Alliance (KHA) minigrant maximums from $5,000 to $25,000. That's an increase of 400%.
The bill was introduced on Aug. 13, the day before a memo from KHA CEO Joe Peppers surfaced on Aug. 14.
The memo was sent to two KHA staffers and indicated the mayor's office was trying to influence Peppers to give certain minigrant applicants 'preferential treatment.'
The day after the memo came to light, Aug. 15, Peppers was placed on administrative leave amid an inspector general investigation into misconduct.
According to the bill's background information, the board of directors at KHA requested the increase.
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"The mini-grant program was created by City Council in the FY 18-19 budget to provide resources to smaller not-for-profits with less experience in applying for and receiving City grants which nevertheless were operating useful programs as the grassroots level in the community," the bill's description states.
"The Kids Hope Alliance Board of Directors requested this change to allow the KHA to fund new and innovative programs, as well as new providers and initiatives that fit within the scope of the Essential Services Plan and overall continuum of services. This legislation requires no new appropriation or transfers of funding. All approved mini-grants will continue to be awarded through the Kids Hope Alliance Trust Fund as outlined in Section 111.850 Part A."
Action News Jax asked the City and Kids Hope Alliance if the timing of the bill's introduction was related to the investigation into Peppers, the impact the proposed legislation could have on the request for proposal (RFP) process should it be passed and how the grants' success is being measured.
"No, the timing is not related," said Travis Williams, KHA senior director of communications.
Williams answered with the following in reference to the RFP process.
"Per the legislation summary, 'This legislation requires no new appropriation or transfers of funding,'" said Williams. "This legislation does not speak to the number of organizations being accepted, nor change their application process. There is always a potential for fewer because we never know who will apply. This legislation speaks to the maximum dollar amount, not a process for choosing."
The proposed bill states, "The award of larger grants would have the effect of reducing the number of recipient programs."
Williams tells us KHA is working on a response to our remaining questions.
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