Welcome to SARPC's digital newsletter. Our goal is to publish a newsletter bi-monthly that provides highlights of projects and activities being undertaken at the agency. If you have any questions or would like to request additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
In This Issue

A LETTER FROM OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

TRANSPORTATION

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

EMPLOYMENT & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

AREA AGENCY ON AGING

STAY CONNECTED TO SARPC ON FACEBOOK

FROM OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

As SUMMER continues, so does the RAIN, RAIN, RAIN!!! But rain or shine your SARPC employees continue performing our responsibilities within our three County Region (Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia). Most of our Departments have expanded programs and services which bring value to the citizens whom we represent. With 32 member governments that we serve, many with newly elected officials, our mission includes providing the highest quality professional services and programs that will ultimately benefit the lives of the citizens in our Region.
 
We are so blessed to have dedicated and caring employees and thank our 24 member Board of Directors for their continued support!!! Thanks and please contact me if I can be of service.



John F. (Rickey) Rhodes
Executive Director

TRANSPORTATION

Update on Phase One of the I-10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project
The Mobile MPO and Eastern Shore MPO both met separately on June 2nd, 2021. Of importance on each agenda, was the amendment to each Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to include Phase One of the I-10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project. Both MPOs passed the amendments unanimously. It was recognized by the Mobile MPO and ESMPO Chairman, that there needed to be more communication between the two MPOs concerning this project, and more transparency from all those involved. At the June 2nd Mobile MPO meeting, Chairman Mayor Stimpson called for frequent updates from ALDOT to both MPOs on the progress of the project. The first of those meetings will be Tuesday, July 27th, at 2:00 PM at Five Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort. Seating is limited, as all members from both MPOs are invited and expected to be present. There will be no actions taken at this meeting, this is for ALDOT to report an update on the project to both MPOs. 
Mobile Area Major Road Plan
 
Last week was a follow up to the Kick Off meeting with SARPC and Volkert for the Mobile Area Major Road Plan, and staff is working with the consultant on a daily basis. The Plan is for better integration and connectivity of land use and transportation planning, to ensure existing and future on-system corridors are managed and/or preserved as part of the long-range comprehensive planning efforts and as development occurs. A complete Major Road Plan to include regulatory components, current practices, case studies, and guidance for Mobile County and Municipalities within Mobile County. The Plan will include methods and tools for acquiring and preserving right-of-way in the context of expediting the environmental clearance process and review how corridors are prioritized, designated, and adopted for management or preservation. This will require coordination with all planning jurisdictions in Mobile County.
100 % Funding for Resurfacing of Local Roads Through the Mobile MPO with CRRSAA, LINK TO MAP HERE
 
In accordance with the Highway Infrastructure Program Funds Pursuant to the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA) dated January 15,2021 from the Federal Highway Administration, the Mobile Transportation Management Area (TMA) through the Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is apportioned $3,193,942 (FY 2021). ln consultation with the State of Alabama, it is the intention of the Mobile MPO to use the Mobile TMA apportioned CRRSAA funding ($3,193,942) for a one time competitive application award program. This funding can be 100% federal funding with no matching requirements; this presents a rare opportunity for the Mobile MPO.
 
Some of our municipalities in the Mobile MPO, do not have adequate revenue streams to provide the matching requirements when federal funds become available. Further, some of the smaller municipalities in the MPO only have one Federal Aid Route in their municipal limits (US43, SR181). Rarely do these municipalities have the opportunity to spend federal transportation funds through the MPO. Per the above noted guidance, routine maintenance and preventative maintenance on non-federal aid highways is allowed if Special Authority is given to the MPO by the State.
 
The State of Alabama has awarded the Mobile MPO the Special Authority to proceed.
 
The cities of Creola, Satsuma, Saraland, Chickasaw, Prichard, Semmes and Bayou la Batre have provided a prioritized list of roads that need to be resurfaced within their jurisdiction. The CRRSAA Committee is meeting next week to move forward with this program. This is 100 % funding, with no matching requirements. Communication with MPO staff is through the Mayor of each municipality. 
 
Please call Kevin Harrison 706-4635 if there are any questions.

RPO Updates

The South Alabama Regional Planning Commission (SARPC) met in October using the GoToMeeting app. The agenda included:

  • Adoption of the minutes of the previous meeting (these will be sent out soon)
  • Review and adoption of the Fiscal Year 2021 Work Program (available for review online at: HERE
  • Review and adoption of the Fiscal Years 2020-2023 Human Services Coordinated Transportation Plan (available for review online at: HERE

The RPO Transportation Plan Project List (available for review online at http://www.mobilempo.org/RPODocuments.html SARPC Rural Planning Organization

Transportation Improvement Program( TIP)

The TIP represents a four year program (2020-2023) for improvements in the various transportation systems located within the Mobile study area as identified in the Mobile MPO's Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), the twenty-five year plan for the Mobile Urban Area Destination 2040. The LRTP establishes the transportation programs that are needed to meet travel demand by the study year and study area. LRTP projects that become funded are moved into the TIP and submitted to the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), where they are programmed into the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). For MPO projects, TIP project selection is based on priorities established by MPO member governments and the availability of funds through the Surface Transportation Attributable program. For other projects, ALDOT has discretion of project funding based on availability of funds from various types of funding categories. Most often, projects in the TIP are derived from the LRTP. The TIP guides ALDOT in its annual allocation of funds for transportation improvements and becomes a part of the STIP.
 
ArcGIS Online is now being utilized by MPO staff to map all federally funded surface transportation projects within our area. Check it out.
 
2020-2023 E-STIP HERE
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
 
Funding Opportunities

8/6: BIA Tribal Tourism Grant Program (TTGP)
Native American, Tribal Tourism

The Office of Indian Economic Development's Tribal Tourism Grant Program (TTGP) aims to support tribal economic development and fulfill the mission of the NATIVE Act(link is external) by providing funding for tribes to conduct feasibility studies to help them make informed decisions about potential tourism projects. TTPG also provides funding for tribes to develop business plans for already completed tourism feasibility studies. In addition to feasibility studies, TTPG may fund business plans for tribal tourism businesses that are recovering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The required method of submitting proposals is through the official TTGP announcement page(link is external) on Grants.gov. More info available here: https://www.bia.gov/service/grants/ttgp

9/1: NTIA Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.
Tribal, Broadband

National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is currently accepting applications for grants to expand broadband access and adoption on tribal land through its Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (link is external). Applications to NTIA must be submitted online (link is external) through the Grants.gov system no later than 11:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) on September 1, 2021.

9/2: USDA Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) Grants
Innovation, Business Assistance

The Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) Grant Program offers grant assistance to create and augment high-wage jobs, accelerate the formation of new businesses, support industry clusters and maximize the use of local productive assets in eligible low-income rural areas.

9/9: DOI Desalination and Water Purification Research Program Supports Technology Innovations
R&D, Technology

The Bureau of Reclamation is awarding $3.6 million to 10 projects for advanced water treatment research and development. The Desalination and Water Purification Research Program funding seeks to improve technologies for water supply development from nontraditional waters, including seawater, brackish groundwater, and municipal wastewater.

9/27: USDA Agriculture Innovation Centers Program
Rural, Innovation, Business Development

USDA is making $7.4 million available under the Agriculture Innovation Center Program. Agriculture Innovation Centers may use the grants to provide technical assistance to help agricultural producers develop and market value-added agricultural products using a variety of options, except joint marketing efforts. The centers may provide the following types of assistance: • financial advisory services to develop, expand or operate a business owned by an agricultural producer; • process development services, such as engineering, production system scale ups, scale production assessments and systems development; • organizational assistance, including legal and technical advisory services; • outreach assistance; • technical assistance for product development, excluding research and development; and • technical assistance for applied research to develop and operate processes and systems to produce and market value-added agricultural products.
To view a table of previously highlighted funding opportunities that are still open, please visit EDI’s Federal Assistance for Economic Development page on EDA’s website at www.eda.gov. This table represents a selection of opportunities available on Grants.gov that may be of particular interest to local and regional economic development stakeholders.



USDA’s Forest Service (FS), Rural Development (RD), and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) have developed this resource guide for rural communities to identify resources that develop the recreation economy.



NTIA released an updated database with information on more than 80 federal programs across 14 federal agencies whose funding can be used for broadband-related purposes. Funding opportunities include direct grants, loans, indirect support, and discounts for industry, state and local governments, schools, libraries, small businesses, and other community institutions that are interested in expanding and improving broadband access.
Visitors to the website can search for programs by agency, program purpose, and eligible recipients. As agencies release new funding opportunities, NTIA will update the site. The information is also available as a downloadable spreadsheet to allow users to sort the material by selected criteria.

Disaster Assistance

This COVID-19 Economic Recovery Resource Roadmap was developed to assist state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) leaders and other interested parties with navigating some of the challenges, as well as the resources, associated with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.


SOURCES

We gathered the announcement and opportunities from multiple sources including:

DOE
Advanced Manufacturing Program
Small Business Administration (SBA) COVID-19 Funding Options: A free, curated list of thousands of funding sources at the national, state, regional, and local levels designed to support small businesses in accessing capital to recover from COVID-19.  
To learn more about EDA’s Economic Development Integration and Disaster Recovery Resources, visit www.eda.gov/edi, or email us at EDI@eda.gov.

Updates

SARPC Economic Development Recovery Plan Update
 
VisionFirst Advisors, the consultants for this project, has conducted a kick-off call with the SARPC team, and kick-off calls with each individual county to identify high-level needs and goals for the plan. They have conducted more than 60 in-person stakeholder meetings and site visits in all three counties over three days with six staff members. They have conducted initial research on each county and the region overall including demographics, educational attainment and awards along with industry clusters. They are overlaying COVID related industry data and subsequent economic pressures as it relates to recovery and resiliency. They have developed an online survey to further engage key stakeholders – coordinating with EDOs for deployment.
 
VisionFirst continues to take the key findings from the data and the interviews and developed the SWOT, leverage points and key findings. Survey results are being tabulated and they will incorporate those as well. 

Hazard Mitigation Plan for Division A
 
The South Alabama Regional Planning Commission completed the Hazard Mitigation Plan for Division A. We have submitted the Plan to the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and FEMA for review, comments and approval.  

Employment and Economic Development Services
 
SARPC Staffing Service
 
SARPC Staffing Service places persons with an average age of 19 to 45 year old. 
 
We offer high quality recruiting and payroll services to governmental and non-profit agencies. 
 
In an effort to acquire a larger pool of workers we engaged additional resource partners to identify job seekers and get them into job openings as quickly as possbile. 
 
To assist us with expanding our reach, we have added a new emloyee with public relations and staffing service experience. We welcome Cheryl Nicholls to the team. 

Our goal at SARPC Staffing Service is to streamline the payroll and hiring process, adding value back to your day. For more information call 251.263.3907 or 251-652-0585. It is our desire to assist you with your staffing needs.
 
Revolving Loan Fund (RLF)
 
The Revolving Loan Fund program provides funding for start up businesses and expanding companies. The funds can be used for working capital, purchase of equipment, building, or renovatoin of an exiting building. 
 
The minimum loan would be $10,000 and the maximum would be $75,000. 
 
Find out how the Revolving Loan Fund can be used to bridge the gap of the cash needed to complete business projects or provide small business funding through a direct loan. 
 
Help us spread the word that we have the money if you have the time!
 
For more information call 251-591-6506.

Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)
 
July 1 was the start of a new Senior Community Service Employment (SCSEP) program year.  We are seeking seniors interested in enrolling in the program in all three counties: Baldwin, Escambia, and Mobile. 
 
To be eligible persons must be 55 year or older, who are not currently working and fall within the 125% Federal poverty income level. 
 
This program is not a job it is a training and placement program. While in this program the participant is placed in a host agency which provides on-the-job training. The host agency is either a non-profit organization or a government entity. The participant provides community service to the host agency for 19.75 hours per week and is paid a stipend of $7.25 per hour. The goal of the program is to prepare the participant for unsubsidized employment and assist them in becoming self-sufficient.   
 
In addition to seeking interested seniors we are also seeking host agencies which need another hand with their workload and are willing to spend some time training a participant. The host agency provides work assignments to the participant for 19.75 hours. This opportunity is free to the host agency. By being a host agency, you would be provided a worker which would normally cost $8,000 per year. We do ask for an annual donation of $1,150 per participant, but participation is not contingent on paying it.
 
Speaking of needing an extra hand. A SCSEP participant recently started working in our office to assist us with the administration of the program. We welcome Shelia Randle to our team.

If you are interested in becoming a host agency or you know of someone who may benefit by being in the SCSEP program, please call 251.591.6506 or 251.263.3907 for more information.

AREA AGENCY ON AGING

Area Agency on Aging Board Report July 15, 2021 Nutrition Program

The Senior Centers were able to open without State imposed guidelines on June 1, 2021, ending the COVID-19 restrictions on inside activities. The senior centers have been at varying stages of re-opening for inside congregate dining and activities, but 19 of the 25 SAIL Senior Nutrition Centers were able to open up during June, and we expect the remaining centers to open in August. We had already developed protocols on how to handle new COVID infections at the centers. Seniors who are still not comfortable returning to inside activities can continue to get their hot meals “to go.” To help revive the senior centers after 14 months being closed for inside dining, SARPC is hiring an Activity Coordinator in October to work with the senior nutrition centers to help bring in more recreational, educational and wellness programs. The goal is to attract new seniors and bring back some who have not returned. During the past year, deaths, declining heath and COVID have impacted senior center attendance at those that reopened in June.
 
Despite the closing of two senior nutrition centers during the pandemic, one of which is closed permanently, the number of senior receiving meals increased by 331 persons and the number of persons receiving home delivered meals not provided by a senior center (delivered by GA Foods vans directly to seniors homes) increased by 50%. Unfortunately, due to the closure of all senior nutrition centers during the pandemic, donations to support the program declined by 40%.

Our Home Delivered meal program was featured by WPMI TV 15 on July 23rd, with promotions airing a few days before. The goal is to bring in more awareness of the meal program, and to also increase donations to the program. The sponsor of this promotion is TV 15 and McConnell Automotive, filmed at the Saraland Senior Center on July 14th.

The Alabama Department of Senior Services is implementing a new data management system set to launch in October, 2021, with WellSky replacing the AIMS system. This is going to be a major change for all the nutrition programs and contracting agencies, and we expect it to be quite challenging for senior center managers. The AAA will hire a data specialist at our office to help all 25 senior centers with the conversion.

To donate to the home delivered meal program, go to www.agingsouthalabama.org


Medicaid Waiver Program

We have had good success growing our program, maintaining the 2nd largest program among the AAAs in Alabama. For the 1st time we have reached 900 persons actively receiving services every month, a significant growth in the services provided in our communities. SARPC’s AAA has also recently received a 2nd performance bonus for FY 21, exceeding three times as many persons actively receiving services on our program as required in our incentive goal imposed by the ICN (Alabama Select Partners).

Due to the American Rescue Plan, there will be some improvements made in services to persons receiving Medicaid Waiver services. While still under the planning stages, we expect this will include increasing rates paid to Direct Service Providers to improve staff salaries, recruitment and retention; increase client services adding medical supplies, medical equipment and home modification services; increasing the number of persons to be served.

Transitioning to Normal Operations

Due to the much higher risk COVID presents to older adults, reopening and group events require more planning and collaboration with partners. Community presentations are being reinstated to include A Matter of Balance Fall Prevention classes in Brewton that began on July 8 and in Satsuma beginning August 11th. Likewise our Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support groups will start meeting again in September in four cities, with our Caregiver Colleges kicking off again in the fall. Our State Health Insurance Program is presenting at multiple sites in the region, and staff attend events and grand reopening celebrations. The South Alabama RSVP program has volunteers working at community events again, after completing a successful tax season with 1,962 tax returns completed with tax payers receiving $1,946,389 in refunds, with high refunds due to the stimulus payments.
 
Restrictions on Return to Normal Operations: Nursing homes are still under CDC guidelines, visitors have to be screened, and there are restricted visitation hours. There continues to be some minor outbreaks of COVID in several facilities which require a 14 day quarantine after an outbreak. It continues to be a challenging environment for residents and families.

New Initiatives

Due to Covid, American Rescue Plan Funding, and an awareness of the unique stressors impacting older adults during the pandemic, the AAA is launching several service expansions and new initiatives. New initiatives include:

  • Vaccine Access Campaign and assisting older adults and persons with disabilities obtain vaccinations.

  • Social Isolation project: Case manager to visit at-risk elders, and volunteer program to provide friendly phone or in-person visitation to isolated seniors.

  • Homemaker Program to provide basic housekeeping services to older persons whose health issues or disabilities require assistance to maintain their independence at home. This program is paired with an expanded home delivered meal program.

  • Activity Coordinator for Senior Nutrition Programs to revitalize senior nutrition programs. The AAA will also hire temporary staff to help senior centers with the conversion to the new WellSky data system.

  • Hospital to Home Transition Coordinator for Medicaid Waiver Program, which will seek to rapidly transition eligible persons on Medicaid from the hospital to in-home services provided by the Medicaid Wavier program.

Vaccine Information