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Twenty-two Chaffee County nonprofit organizations have been awarded a total of $405,742 through the Chaffee County Marijuana Excise Tax Advisory Board (METAB)’s 2021 competitive grant program.

Pure Greens operated from state-of-the-art indoor greenhouses in Smeltertown. Courtesy Photo.

Grant awards will fund programs and projects within the community that support METAB’s focus areas of human services and youth programs, public health (including mental health), workforce housing, and the regulation of marijuana and other drugs.

The METAB-advised grants are funded through an excise tax levied on the first sale or transfer of unprocessed retail marijuana in the County. The ballot referendum authorizing the five percent excise tax was approved in 2016 by Chaffee County voters and became effective in January 2017. Over its first five years, METAB has distributed close to $1 million — $980,577 — in grants to local nonprofit organizations and governmental programs.

“This year’s record number of grant applications and highly competitive proposals are a testament to the impressive work and many positive impacts coming out of Chaffee’s community-serving organizations,” shared Chaffee County Commissioner Keith Baker. “The METAB program is yet another strong example of how the County continues to make significant investments in the health and welfare of our community in key areas, ranging from early childhood support to senior services, career development to workforce housing, and transportation to healthy foods access.”

According to METAB Board Chair Dave Henson, for the 2021 grant cycle:

  • 29 applications were received, and 22 were recommended for funding
  • 17 were recommended for a total funding request
  • 5 were recommended for a partial funding request
  • 7 were not recommended for funding
  • $575,067 was the total funding request and $404,742 in funding recommendations was granted

When the tax became effective January 2017, it was with the specification that the revenues be used to support human services, public health (including mental health), workforce housing, and expenses related to the regulation of marijuana and other drugs and enforcement of related laws. It is managed by a seven-member advisory board to establish policy, procedure and recommend the distribution of revenues of the excise tax. A competitive grant program was established in August 2017 to distribute funds.

The 2021 grant cycle is the fifth year of revenues distribution within the METAB grant program, the vast majority of it coming from the Pure Greens marijuana grow operation in Smeltertown. The growth of the program is obvious. “We went from $120,000 to $400,000 [per year] in five years,” said Henson. “We don’t know why we’ve seen such growth, but the second greenhouse they put in is a lot of it.

Henson pointed out that while they had $175,000 in grant application requests for youth support programs, they received no applications for enforcement of drug laws, which is the fifth category of grant funding.

The Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners approved the 2021 grant recommendations at their December 7 regular meeting. Grant awards spanned the mission areas allowable within the METAB resolution, including:

Workforce and Family Housing ($95,000; 24 percent of total grants)

  • Chaffee Housing Authority for Jane’s Place – $25,000
  • Chaffee County Habitat for Humanity – $25,000
  • Chaffee Housing Trust for Workforce Housing – $25,000
  • Chaffee County Human Services’ Family Stability Program – $20,000

Youth-Focused Programs ($174,500; 43 percent  of total grants)

  • Boys and Girls Club of Chaffee County Youth Programs – $22,000
  • Boys and Girls Club of Chaffee County Capital Campaign – $25,000
  • Family and Youth Initiatives Youth Substance Use Prevention – $25,000
  • Family and Youth Initiatives Chaffee County Mentor Program – $25,000
  • elevateHER Youth Outdoor Programs – $25,000
  • Chaffee County Early Childhood Council – $12,000
  • Guidestone Youth Career Pathways in Agriculture Education – $7,000
  • Salida Sunrise Rotary – Dolly Parton Imagination Library – $13,500
  • Children’s Nutrition Initiative Salida Community Center – $20,000

Human Services ($106,242; 26 percent of total grants)

  • Family and Youth Initiatives’ Parenting Program – $25,000
  • Achieve, Inc. 2022 Summer Employment Program – $10,000
  • The Alliance Domestic and Sexual Violence Services – $25,000
  • Chaffee County Hospitality Inc. Shelter Services – $16,000
  • Ark Valley Helping Hands Membership Services and Events – $15,000
  • Neighbor to Neighbor New Shuttle Matching Funds Project – $15,242

Public Health (including Mental Health) ($30,000; seven percent of total grants)

  • Chaffee County Public Health – Diabetes Prevention – $2,000
  • Chaffee County Public Health Maternal Family Health in the Midst of COVID-19 – $20,000
  • Chaffee County Public Health Professional Development for Community Service Providers – $8,000

During the BOCC meeting, Commissioner Greg Felt also celebrated the contributions of former Chaffee County Commissioner Dennis Giese, who is concluding his volunteer service on the METAB board at the end of this year.

Commented Felt, “Dennis was instrumental in the formation of the METAB. He was one of the strongest advocates to promote the 2016 ballot initiative 1A and has been an ongoing champion of the program since then. We all thank him for his thoughtful leadership in creating the METAB, supporting the grant evaluations over the past years, and establishing its legacy that will continue to strengthen our local community for years to come.”

METAB’s next grant cycle will open in early summer 2022. The Grant Award Celebration event for this year’s grant recipients is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 25.