An idea that took root in last year’s city spending negotiations has, quite literally, paid off with about 40 nonprofits, school groups and individuals sharing $500,000 for youth activities in Haverhill.
Money from the US Federal Bailout Act was used to pay for various summer activities, including summer camps, kayaking lessons, sports field improvements, music and painting exercises, etc According to Mayor James J. Fiorentini, the city has received more than $900,000 in grant applications.
“Our young people have been particularly affected by the pandemic,” Fiorentini said of the reasoning behind the grants. “The social and educational isolation of the past two plus years has placed a terrible burden on our children. 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 boosted by a 2021 spending compromise crafted by then-Council Speaker Melinda E. Barrett and Fiorentini, after City Council voted to cancel the $217 million budget for Fiorentini. A majority of councilors had requested a dedicated pool of money, filled with cannabis fees the city collects, to pay for mental health and youth activities. Instead, the compromise resulted in the mayor allocating the federal money in the first year.
The largest grant recipients were the Haverhill public-private partnership, known as HP3 for short, $50,000; Youth Risk Survey, $41,607; Boys and Girls Club of Greater Haverhill, $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 Prevention and Intervention Project, $17,300.
A 15-person Youth Activities Committee led by President George Moriarty sorted and ranked requests for money. Grants were handed out at a recent event at City Hall. The mayor singled out committee chairman George Moriarty and councilmen Barrett and Thomas J. Sullivan for their efforts on behalf of the program.
In the current budget year, the money will increase to $750,000 following another compromise between the council and the mayor.
Councilors last week 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. Mayor’s spokesman Shawn Regan told WHAV that $40,000 would pay for a full engineering study of needed improvements and $10,000 for a temporary restroom.