By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – Two years later, the effects of the pandemic are still hitting some Colorado communities hard, including the nonprofits that support them. Now, a bill headed to the governor’s desk aims to help those organizations, many of which saw increased demand and expanded programming without the proper infrastructure or support.

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The Small Community-based Nonprofit Grant Program, or House Bill 1356, aims to set give $35 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to a grant program. The money would be distributed through 10 intermediaries to small nonprofits serving under resourced and rural communities.

With in-person programing back and Denver Pridefest returning, 2022 is off to a promising start at the Center on Colfax, a community center with support services for the LGBTQ community.

For CEO Rex Fuller, it’s far better than the past two pandemic years, when COVID-19 slowed community engagement, and the center scrambled to adapt and expand.

“It was a challenge for the people that we serve, but it was very much a challenge for the people who work here and were trying to do the serving,” Fuller said.

House Bill 1356 desk aims to give nonprofits like the Center on Colfax a boost.

If it’s signed into law, the smaller organizations could apply for up to $100,000 in grants to build infrastructure and expand.

“Whether we’re talking about communities of color, LGBTQ organizations, immigrants, working class people, rural communities, that’s really the breadth and depth of the organizations that would be served by these grants,” said Sen. Julie Gonzales (D), one of the bill’s four sponsors. “We want for these organizational recipients to be able to use the money in the way that they see fit best so they can do the work that they know how to do best.”

The bill’s biggest supporter is Communities Lead, Communities Thrive (CLCT), a coalition of nonprofits serving Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, LGBTQ+, rural, and other underrepresented communities. So far, the organization has identified more than 2,500 nonprofits across the state that could apply for the help.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s really to target these communities, these organizations, so that as they pivot out of COVID, they can become stronger than they were before,” said Carlos Martinez, the founder of CLCT. “It’s hard to sometimes bounce back for a community when the anchor organization in the community doesn’t have the resources to help it bounce back.”

With that money, Fuller would expand LGBTQ youth counseling at the Center on Colfax, a service he calls desperately needed.

“This could be an opportunity to engage new staff, to get more counselors available, expand that programming,” he said. “I think we can really make a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

The money from this bill would have to be spent by the end of 2024, though those involved don’t think it’ll take that long.

Conor McCue