Insights Grant Funding at Work in West Texas
Grant Funding at Work in West Texas
Reeves County can be found nestled in the southwestern corner of Texas. This quiet district has a population of almost 14,000 citizens, about the same size of the daily workforce employed in the JP Morgan Chase Tower in Houston. Covering 2,642 square miles (1% of Texas’ land mass), Reeves County has only five citizens per square mile. This is a small number when compared to the Texas average of almost 100 citizens per square mile. Like every other region in the United States, Reeves County’s local government works hard to enable safe housing, water supply, and healthy infrastructure. However, a small population and taxation base make this task challenging for regions like Reeves County.
In response to these challenges, Federal and State authorities utilize grants to assist local development efforts. These grants provide funds for initiatives such as housing repairs, water supply or drainage improvement and are designed to assist residents with low income. Grants enable regions like Reeves County to maintain healthy infrastructure for their citizens.
In 2012, Reeves County successfully applied for and received a Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) Colonia Grant in the amount of $500,000. This grant money was targeted to improve the living conditions of low income seniors. While County Officials were ecstatic about the grant, their limited staffing made it difficult to execute. Ricky Herrera, Reeves County Emergency Manager, noted, “There were a lot of variables to learn the first time we went through this process and we needed some help.”
As Reeves County looked for assistance, a neighboring community action group suggested they contact The Institute for Building Technology and Safety (IBTS). As a non-profit organization, IBTS specializes in providing building solutions for governments who lack the staff, time or expertise needed to navigate the full spectrum of the building and grant processes.
As a nonprofit, IBTS can undertake both grant implementation and acting as the grant recipient for local governments in Texas or other states. IBTS also plays a technical role through assessing building damage, defining the scope of work for projects, providing construction documents, contract negotiation, assessing contract bids, and evaluating the quality of completed work.
Initially, Reeves County utilized IBTS as a trusted advisor for the purpose of helping navigate the complexities of grant funding. Over time, they also hired IBTS to provide complete construction management and technical consulting services for grant programs within the county. Implementation involved three stages: assessment of building needs, facilitation of contractor bidding, ongoing site inspections and construction management.
County Official Herrera said, “Our first priority was to address basic safety needs for homeowners. This typically involved bringing electrical wiring up to code, adding insulation to provide energy savings, replacing windows and doors as well as providing access ramps for disabled citizens.”
However, during the assessment process it became apparent that repair needs far exceeded what the grant could cover. According to Eric Cruz, Project Manager at IBTS, the initial Colonia Grant provided funding to repair only 18 homes. As they worked with local County Officials to assess homeowner needs, they found there were more than 60 homes that needed significant assistance. Cruz stated, “Some homes were not eligible for the Colonia Grant and in other cases there was just not enough funding to go around.”
As a result, the IBTS team began working with County Officials to see what else could be done. Relying on decades of collective experience in the home development field, they helped County Officials become aware of other grants and available resources that were not being accessed.
This resulted in securing additional grants through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Action (TDHCA) HOMES Program. In this case IBTS served as the grant recipient and, with the help of Reeves County Commissioners, now have 40 more homes approved to receive complete housing reconstruction.
County officials are pleased to see how these grants are making changes in their county. Herrera notes, “These improvements are a godsend for many people. Citizens are very grateful for the benefits this project provides them.” Cruz adds, “The repairs we are making bring the homes up to a standard of living that most of us take for granted. The citizens who received the grants typically have disabilities or are retired and they had no feasible means of making repairs. Receiving grants to repair their homes has changed their lives.”
Cruz commented, “We were impressed at how hard County Officials were working to improve significant safety issues for their citizens. As a team, we decided to invest personal time and resources to help them strengthen their community.” Steve Traina, a Senior Manager at IBTS stated, “This project became more than a job. We saw how we could change the lives of citizens through basic home improvements and it was a privilege to work with a committed team of County Officials to do this.”
To date, Reeves County citizens have now received over $3 million in funding for housing improvements for nearly 60 homes and families. IBTS staff continues to work with the County in both an advising capacity as well as providing trained experts to lead on-the-ground services. In fact, IBTS and Reeves County officials will soon kick-off a third housing improvement grant, Amy Young Barrier Removal Program, which focuses on housing improvements for disabled citizens.
This success story outlines the benefits of working with a nonprofit organization. While IBTS seeks to facilitate progress in the built environment, the underlying passion is to serve the communities where they work and live. Doyle notes, “Buildings will always come and go. But when you invest in people, you can make a long-term difference.”
The Institute for Building Technology and Safety (IBTS) exists to accelerate development in the built environment. This is viewed as a technical and process-oriented exercise, and while the work IBTS does requires technical processes, the heart of the organizational mission is to help people. As a nonprofit business, IBTS was established to provide unbiased professional services, while enhancing the communities in which they work.
For more information about how IBTS can work with your community, please contact IBTS Deputy Director, Chris Doyle, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-452-8899.