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Hays County grants ARP funding to HCWC

By Megan Wehring 

HAYS COUNTY –The Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center (HCWC) is receiving a $644,000 grant – which is considered to be a blessing following the pandemic. 

The Hays County Commissioners Court approved the allocation of the American Rescue Plan and the Local Fiscal Recovery Fund on Aug. 9. The agenda item, brought forward by commissioners Mark Jones and Walt Smith, was discussed by the court at the previous meeting on Aug. 2.

Photo courtesy of HCWC
Melissa Rodriguez, Executive Director.

“After working with the HCWC for almost two years to find a way to address the needs for their new facility, it was obvious that we had to do something,” Smith said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am that we are able to provide this financial relief because the assistance the HCWC provides the most vulnerable in our community can’t be measured.” 

The commissioners said they believe the ARP funds are being used for something worthwhile and important in Hays County. They also acknowledged the need to accurately track how the funds were used, as the use of grant money for prohibited expenses or investments may result in an action to recover funds not spent according to the rules and laws governing such funds.

Grant funds may be used for any of HCWC’s normal operating working capital uses to mitigate and recover from the extraordinary expenses and revenue loss resulting from the shutdowns and other direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19, according to a news release. Working capital is the amount of capital, which is used in day-to-day operations, including, but not limited to items such as payroll, rent, inventory, utilities and interest on loans.

“We appreciate all the members of the court for making this funding plan a reality,” Jones said. “This grant allows the staff at the center to provide the much-needed services to the community, many of which were hindered during the pandemic.”

Melissa Rodriguez, chief executive officer for HCWC, explained how the center will benefit from the grant money.

“This funding will restore funds to our newly opened transitional housing program, Marla’s Place. Building an 18-apartment complex with two Early Head Start classrooms onsite during the pandemic created overages, delays and unexpected increases that needed to be completed in a timely manner,” Rodriguez said. “These funds will directly impact our ability to deliver programming as planned to the 18 families that will need assistance throughout their time with our program. We are also prepared to utilize the funding to benefit the community we serve by meeting the increased demand for services. One effect of the pandemic has been an increased need for our McCoy Emergency Shelter program. Not only are we operating at capacity, but we are also now in need of additional space to accommodate additional families at our shelter and these funds will ensure we are able to meet that dire need.”

This is not the first time the HCWC has seen support from the county, Rodriguez explained. Prior to Tuesday’s contribution, there was an initial $600,000 grant before breaking ground on Marla’s Place. 

“With the county’s support, the citizens of Hays County will have access to the only transitional housing program in our community for decades to come,” Rodriguez said. “Families served at Marla’s Place will be able to access affordable housing, onsite quality early education for their young children, receive counseling services for themselves and their children and individualized case management to work on goals to not only heal from their trauma but work towards self-sufficiency for their families.”

Last year, HCWC served 2,023 adults, youth and children – 1,539 of those were from Hays County and all received direct face-to-face services for domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or child abuse.

“I feel truly grateful for this level of support, especially during such an uncertain time in our history,” Rodriguez said. “The nonprofit business sector is completely dependent on funding availability and community donations from individuals, foundations, groups and businesses. With our economy and government funding in a state of flux at any given time, it is truly a blessing to know our community cares about the people we serve every day.”

About Author

Megan Navarro (formerly Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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