County Council approves changes to the ECHO program.
Written by Anthony Bicy
Belden Communications News
Tuesday, August 17, the County Council adopted new operating rules for the ECHO program.
Many of the changes to the ECHO program provide enhanced assistance to agencies seeking county ECHO grants to help fund local projects.
The ECHO program and the small property tax were supposed to expire in 2021, but it received majority support in a November 2020 referendum, agreeing to extend the program through 2041. Since being approved, the program has helped fund more than 220 environmental, cultural, and outdoor recreational projects, like the County trail systems, which are now eligible for ECHO funds.
The ECHO Advisory Committee suggested most of the changes that the council approved on Tuesday, like the annual standard award amount going up to $600,000 and an increase in the max amount a project can receive, which has gone from $2.4 million to $3.1 million. The max amount for exceptional grants also increased from $1.8 million to $2.5 million.
The changes also provide aid for small nonprofit organizations; however, the cash match requirement has gone down from 50 percent to 20 or 30 percent, depending on the size of the group.
“You want the fund, the ECHO fund, to pay for its resources,” said Councilwoman Barb Girtman. “I’m certainly in support of it, and I think it’s the best way to go.”
According to a release, other recommendations embraced by the council came from the county’s internal auditor, whose task is reviewing ECHO annually to ensure that the program is operating efficiently, effectively, and in compliance with its guiding rules and regulations.
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