Concord to dole out $7M to social justice, arts groups

CONCORD, CA (Oct. 21, 2022) — Local nonprofits can apply for city grants to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, although some arts advocates are concerned about competing with social justice groups for funding.

“We’ll never win. I mean, the homeless are always going to be more important than art,” Sylvia Amorino of Solo Opera said at the Sept. 27 City Council meeting.

“But,” she added, “we are very valuable to cities.”

A council ad hoc committee earmarked $7 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help nonprofits that provide projects or programs benefiting Concord residents. However, Councilmember Carlyn Obringer suggested pulling out $2 million just for arts grants.

“I think it’s extremely difficult because there are so many social needs,” Obringer said, noting that “it’s tricky” to compare a request from Monument Impact regarding guaranteed basic income to the needs of a performing arts troupe.

“But at the end of the day, the arts benefit everyone regardless of your socioeconomic status,” she told her fellow council members. “And if we’re going to value that and help support that and grow that, this is the time to do it.”
When her proposal failed, Obringer asked staff to review the grant application to reflect a broader perspective.

Geared toward social services

“Right now, the way the application reads, it’s all geared toward social service. It’s asking how your project or program will benefit low-income families, chronic homeless, seniors 55 and older, pregnant mothers. So if the same application is going to be used, it really needs to, you know, cross the gamut,” she said.

Justin Ezell, Concord’s assistant city manager, said the application states that the grants are available to all Concord-based nonprofits and includes examples such as youth, arts and culture. He said they added the phrase “delivering arts and culture to the broad Concord community” to the section Obringer cited.

“The questions themselves are all very general and can apply to any type of organization,” Ezell told the Pioneer.

A link to the application can be found on the ARPA page at Eligible nonprofits have until 5 p.m. Oct. 28 to apply.

After a review and interview process, the council is expected to award grants between $50,000 and $2 million on Dec. 6.

In total, the council allocated $19 million from ARPA at the meeting. Other funding includes:

  • $7 million for city projects, public safety and special events.
  • $3 million to support the unhoused.
  • $2 million for small business grants, with a November application period.
Bev Britton
Bev Britton
Copy Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer |

Bev Britton graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of North Dakota and moved to the Bay Area with her soon-to-be husband Jim in 1986. She was features editor at the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek before becoming managing editor of the Contra Costa Sun in Lafayette in 1995. She retired from newsrooms in 2001, but an ad for the Clayton Pioneer drew her back in. The family moved to Lake Wildwood in the Gold Country a few years ago - but working at the Pioneer keeps her in touch with her old neighborhoods in Concord and Clayton.