The head of a local nonprofit appeared before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen on Aug. 17 seeking help with an effort to receive a federal grant.
James Dunn, representing the Tunica County Community Development Coalition, said his organization recently applied for a grant from the Department of Planning and Safety.
“In order to make the application, we need an organization to agree to sponsor it,” Dunn said.
The grant would cover costs for a Youth Entrepreneurship program that exposes kids to writing a business plan and running a business, Dunn said. The program features guest speakers and hands on experience. It operates on a part-time basis.
Dunn said it was his wish to grow it into a 12 month program. The town could act as a clearinghouse for the grant.
Ann Johnson, who has helped oversee the program for Tunica County since 2002, said the program was a credible and valuable resource.
Dunn said the grant requires a 10 percent match by the sponsor.
Dunn said his organization could provide the match or find a sponsor.
Johnson said the grant could include five percent unaccounted-for funding, which would mean the town would only have to provide five percent.
Chuck Cariker asked if the program’s personnel would be considered town employees.
Johnson said the staff would be specific to the program, and the town would only be responsible for the accounting.
Town clerk Celia Boren pointed out that federal funds require a singular audit.
Alderman Eloise Carson asked who was preparing the application.
Dunn said the nonprofit TCCDC, Inc. had initially submitted the application and were advised to get a sponsoring agency.
Alderman Edward Hunsucker asked where the classes were held. Dunn said the students meet at the Tunica Vo-Tech Center.
Hunsucker asked about the program’s success rate.
Dunn said it has only operated on a part-time basis, but in the first year, 24 kids enrolled and 16 kids completed the program. He noted that it is designed to steer kids on the verge of becoming adolescent offenders on another path, but serves non at risk youth as well.
“It’s really designed to get kids in the mindset of owning their own business or becoming the head of a household,” Dunn said.
Hunsucker asked if it cover all aspects of entrepreneurship, including management and financing.
Dunn said the program uses a 96 page curriculum and students feed off into another program when this one is completed.
Hunsucker asked about the instructors.
Dunn said one staff member has a business background, including a business degree. The other is a retired educator.
Cariker asked how the bills for the program would be paid.
Johnson said the town would pay the bills and be reimbursed for them from the grant funds.
Hunsucker said he was concerned that it would require a lot of the town clerk’s time.
Johnson said it wouldn’t require any more time than the town’s regular accounting duties.
Knabb asked if employees would be given a purchase order number.
Johnson said whatever the town’s normal process was would be fine.
Boren said if the program’s personnel were concerned town employees, they would be required to have benefits.
Dunn said the staff members were already TCCDC employees so they could be considered “contract labor” for the town.
Johnson said if the town agreed to sponsor the program, they would be wise to spend all the grant funding.
Following a few more questions from the board, Cariker suggested that the board take the request under advisement.
“Let’s check with the state and decide by the next meeting,” Cariker said.
Alderman Charley Knabb asked if there was a deadline.
Dunn said he was hoping to start the program after Labor Day.
Johnson said it was a little amount of money that can effect many lives.
Hunsucker asked about how students apply for the program.
“If you have room for 10 students and 20 apply, do you go to the ones who are borderline delinquent or try to mix it up?” Hunsucker asked.
“We intend to serve the kids who are doing well and the ones who are not doing so well,” Dunn said.
Johnson said anyone who is put on the waiting list for the entrepreneurship program was cycled into another program until a spot open ups.
“We don’t just leave kids hanging,” Johnson said.