Funds allocated for recreation and health in low-income areas

Gov. Brian Kemp recently announced the creation of a $250 million grant program to improve parks, sidewalks, recreation facilities, and healthy food access in low-income neighborhoods.

The “Improving Neighborhood Outcomes in Disproportionally Impacted Communities” program will provide funding for qualifying projects that improve neighborhood features such as parks, recreation facilities, sidewalks, and healthy food access, according to a news release.

The news release states that a lack of availability of these types of community assets have been connected to decreased levels of mortality and illness, both in regard to avoiding the spread of Covid-19 and other physical or mental ailments.

Applications will be accepted through Nov. 18, with awards of up to $2 million per qualified project.

The news release states that the program funds will be allotted to local units of government, counties, or non-profit organizations for improving or maintaining recreational facilities in Qualified Census Tracts (QCTs). Funds will also be allocated for repair or maintenance “due to significantly greater use of public facilities during the pandemic,” the news release states.

Applicants must use the Georgia QCT Dashboard to verify that the proposed project resides within one of the state’s QCTs, or an area that meets the program’s low-income threshold. Applications received for projects that are not located within a QCT will not be eligible for review.

Zip codes throughout DeKalb County contain QCTs that qualify for the program.

Some of the area codes with QCTs include 30034 and 30037 in Panthersville area and area codes 30032, 30035. 30083, and 30072 bordering Austin Drive and Interstate 285. Several tracts are also found around Clarkston, Redan, and Stonecrest are also eligible in South DeKalb.

Several zip codes in the northern part of the county also contain QCTs, including 30340, 30319, 30360 – which run from south of Brookhaven to DeKalb’s border with Gwinnett County east of Dunwoody.

According to Kemp, this bill is important due to the “lingering public health impacts of Covid-19 that are broader than the disease itself,” that the pandemic has left with some communities.

“They include mental health challenges and unhealthy physical conditions caused by isolation,” said Kemp. “That’s why throughout the pandemic, we worked hard to keep our state parks and recreational facilities open and operating safely, encouraging people to continue to utilize environments where they could socially distance, get outdoors, get fresh air, and exercise.”

Kemp said the new program will give Georgians more healthy and safe recreational options as well as improve access to healthy foods.

“We were met with resistance at times on this approach, but we prevailed in giving both Georgians and numerous out-of-state visitors safe options. By carefully investing these funds, we’re helping communities further move past the effects of the pandemic and become healthier,” said Kemp.

Application information and the QCT map can be found at: opb.georgia.gov/improving-neighborhood-outcomes-disproportionally-impacted-communities. For general questions on grant programs, applicants may contact grants@opb.georgia.gov.

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