An idea that had its roots in last year’s city spending negotiations has, literally, paid off for about 40 nonprofits, school groups and individuals sharing in $500,000 for Haverhill youth activities.
The money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was used to pay for a variety of summer activities including summer camp, kayak lessons, athletic field improvements, music and painting exercises and more. According to Mayor James J. Fiorentini, the city received more than $900,000 in grant requests.
“Our young people have been especially hard hit by the pandemic,” Fiorentini said of the reasoning behind the grants. “The social and educational isolation of the past two-plus years imposed a terrible burden on our kids. This one-time funding is a chance to do some very meaningful and necessary things to improve the lives of our children and teens.”
The grant program was spurred by a 2021 spending compromise engineered by then-Council President Melinda E. Barrett and Fiorentini after the City Council voted to nix Fiorentini’s $217 million budget. A majority of councilors had called for a dedicated pool of money, filled with cannabis fees the city collects, to pay for mental health and youth activities. Instead, the compromise led to the mayor allocating the federal money the first year.
The largest recipients of grants were the Haverhill Public-Private Partnership, known as HP3 for short, $50.000; Youth Risk Survey, $41,607; Greater Haverhill Boys and Girls Club, $31,000; Haverhill YMCA, $30,010; Caleb Dustin Hunking School, $25,670; Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, $18,192; Urban Bridges, $17,560; and Haverhill Violence Intervention and Prevention project, $17,300.
A 15-person Youth Activities Committee headed by Chairman George Moriarty sorted and ranked requests for the money. Grants were handed out at a recent event in City Hall. The mayor singled out Committee Chairman George Moriarty and City Councilors Barrett and Thomas J. Sullivan for their efforts in support of the program.
During the current budget year, the money will swell to $750,000 as a result of another Council and mayor compromise.
Last week, councilors agreed to transfer $50,000 from city reserves to pay for improvements at Clement Farm where the Haverhill Girls Softball League plays. Officials originally planned to use American Rescue Plan Act money, but found the project was likely ineligible. Mayoral Spokesman Shawn Regan told WHAV $40,000 will pay for a comprehensive engineering study of needed improvements and $10,000 for temporary restrooms.