Vicksburg organizations, museums benefitting from city’s ARPA Funds

Published 3:25 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A number of community organizations and museums are benefitting from the city of Vicksburg’s $5.6 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds under a decision by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in August to share the wealth.

“The money is designed to help enhance the opportunity to get your community back post-COVID,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “Every organization that was given money is a service to our community and it’s been hit by COVID.”

Part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is designed to help local and state governments recover from the devastating economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Under the plan, the city will receive $2.8 million a year for two years for a total of $5.6 million. Mayor George Flaggs Jr. plans to spend $1.2 million — $600,000 per year, or about 21 percent of that total, on educational programs for children including $24,880 for a pilot coding program for children to learn basic programming, design and other computer skills.

As of Sept. 15, 11 the board has allocated about $210,117 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to community organizations and city museums ranging in amounts from $5,000 a year for two years to $133,450 a year for two years for United Way of West Central Mississippi, which is sponsoring an afterschool reading program for children in kindergarten through third grade to help improve reading levels.

Some organizations will receive their funds for one year only.

“That’s wonderful,” Kathleen Emfinger, director of Vicksburg Catholic School’s Sisters of mercy Early Learning Center, said of the money. “That’s going to be very helpful for us; we’ll use it wherever it’s needed in our operational budget. I am very grateful that the mayor chose us.

“I’m grateful Anna Kate Doiron (Vicksburg Catholic School director of development and alumni affairs) applied for it for us and for the mayor to approve it,” she said.

Charles Pendleton, owner and operator of the Vicksburg Civil War Museum said the money will help him continue the museum.

“Anytime you can get some needed help, it feels great,” he said. “It offsets the slow tourism, especially with COVID. For me, it allows me to continue to operate at full capacity without having to close.”

Like the city’s other museums, the Vicksburg Civil War Museum is getting $10,416.67 a year for two years. He said the money will go to his general budget, which handles payroll and operating expenses.

“It will help us immensely because the guest amount is down in the number of patrons who come in,” said Old Depot Museum curator and director Dave Benway. “The boats are starting back but they’re not like they used to be and that’s what we count on; people coming in here. It will help out more than anybody knows.”

He said the museum will use the money according to the guidelines, like protection against COVID-19.

“We’ll probably put barriers where we need to separate people and the deep cleaning costs here are quite a bit,” he said. “The floor area, that’s got to be cleaned and it gets extensive, getting somebody in here to clean floors because they have to move stuff around it takes a lot of doing.

“We’re really hoping it’s going to help with our rent and utilities because we don’t have the flow-through we used to have.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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