This month, Santa Monica City Council will begin the process of allocating roughly $8 million in city funds toward various “human services” geared toward three program areas: lifelong learning, stability, and health and wellness, through the Human Services Grants Program (HSGP).

The program “funds an array of safety-net programs for vulnerable and underserved individuals and families in Santa Monica,” according to an information item prepared by Community Services Director Andy Agle. Those include homeless and senior services, food assistance, job training, childcare subsidies and more.

Next week, City Council will be asked to provide input and approval regarding the budget for the next HSGP cycle, which will run from July 1, 2023-June 30, 2027, and will kickstart the yearlong process of selecting which organizations will qualify for city funding.

By spring 2023, city staff hope to have compiled a short list of candidates for grant funds, which council can then approve as part of the June 2023 budget.

Throughout most of its life, the program (which has been in place since the 1970s), was reviewed and reallocated every three years. But extenuating circumstances have led to the current human services grants carrying through for eight years.

First, beginning in 2010, the HSGP moved to a four-year cycle, “to align with the City’s biennial budget process,” according to city staff. Then, in 2018-19 — the fourth year in a cycle that began in 2015 — council voted to extend the cycle for two more years to redesign the program’s goals.

But that process was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Now, eight years have passed and staff are eager to take a fresh look at the program.

The annual HSGP budget of $8,165,812 is divided among 22 local nonprofits, but the future budget may grow since this number has not changed since 2015.

“While the needs of Santa Monicans have steadily increased during the current 8-year funding cycle (and spiked during the pandemic), funding for the Human Services Grants Program has not risen proportionally,” the information item states. “The last substantial enhancement to HSGP funding occurred in FY 2015-16, when Council approved a $550,000 increase, which expanded the total pool of funding available to applicants to $8,166,812. As a result, the reality is that existing funding may be insufficient to address the community’s emerging needs, let alone established needs.”

Because city funds are combined with non-city funding — providing a minimum 30% cash match — staff estimate the $8 million in city funds yield a total of $22 million worth of HSGP services each year. Still, the money is not enough, staff content.

In addition to a potential budget increase, staff have also suggested widening the pool of qualified applicants to include some nonprofits that are not currently located in Santa Monica. Currently, the city can only consider organizations with local ties, the thought process being that programs must be accessible to those in need within the Santa Monica community; however, “Given the limited number of social service non-profits in Santa Monica, and in response to community feedback to expand eligibility criteria, staff revised the requirement to allow agencies not currently located within the City to describe their planned service delivery model, including supporting documentation of how they plan to provide services accessible to SMPP and/or locate themselves in the city,” the information item states.

City Council will take up the item during its Aug. 24 meeting.

emily@smdp.com