Most Arkansas pregnancy center grant applicants awarded requested state funds

More applications will be accepted at a later date, finance department spokesman says

By: - September 26, 2022 6:08 pm

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Twelve of the 16 applicants for Arkansas’ $1 million grant program meant to assist pregnancy resource centers will receive the full amounts requested in August, according to data the state Department of Finance and Administration released Monday.

Two organizations will only get some of the money they requested, and the final two will get none, since their requests did not adhere to the rules of the grant, according to the data.

The 12 organizations were awarded a cumulative $454,191 of the $487,993 that 15 of the 16 applicants requested. The additional applicant, TruthWorks, sought the full $1 million but will receive nothing because the organization is based outside Arkansas.

The state Legislature set aside $1 million earlier this year to help fund crisis pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, maternity homes and “social service agencies that provide material support and other assistance to individuals facing an unintended pregnancy to help those individuals give birth to their unborn children.”

Crisis pregnancy centers are often religiously affiliated and discourage clients from ending their pregnancies. Republican state leaders have held up the centers as critical now that abortion has been almost entirely outlawed in Arkansas following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

The twelve recipients that will receive the full amount requested are:

  • The Cradle Maternity Support Center, Berryville: $5,880
  • 1st Choice Pregnancy Resource Center, Hope: $10,501
  • Hope of the Delta Center, Pine Bluff/Stuttgart/West Memphis: $32,225.00
  • Hannah Pregnancy Resource Center, Camden/El Dorado/Magnolia: $39,510
  • Pregnancy Resource Center for Southwest Arkansas, Arkadelphia: $39,954.71
  • Caring Hearts Pregnancy Center, Little Rock/North Little Rock: $39,960
  • Arkansas Baptist Children & Family Ministries, Little Rock: $39,962.50
  • Open Arms Pregnancy Center, Huntsville: $39,998
  • HopePlace, Newport: $40,000.00
  • St. Joseph’s Helpers of Pulaski County d/b/a Arkansas Pregnancy Resource Center, Little Rock: $40,000
  • Heart to Heart Pregnancy and Family Care Center, Fort Smith: $40,000
  • PLUM Foundation, West Memphis: $40,000

Changepoint Pregnancy Care & Parenting Center in Hot Springs will receive $11,600 of its requested $40,000 because its planned “fundraising and facilities expansion are not allowable costs,” according to the grant distribution data.

New Beginnings Pregnancy Center in Benton will receive $34,600 of its requested $40,000 because its planned payments for staff to fundraise for the center were not allowable uses of the grant, the data states.

Acts of Hope in Blytheville will not receive any of its $40,000 request. The center wanted to use the money to hire staff to fundraise for the center and to teach classes on abstinence and sexually transmitted diseases.

The grant application specifically mentions community awareness events as non-allowable uses for the money.

Oklahoma-based TruthWorks helps pregnancy centers and drug rehabilitation centers receive government funding “by rigorously monitoring how dollars are spent, while ensuring the separation of private (faith-based services) and reimbursable services from the government,” according to its website. The organization operates in Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska and hoped to expand into Arkansas with the grant money, its application states.

The centers that will receive the money plan to use it primarily for advertising, including targeted digital ads aimed at Arkansans whose online activity suggests that they may have an unplanned pregnancy, according to the applications. The Advocate obtained copies of the applications through an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request.

The grant program’s goal is to help pregnant Arkansans give birth regardless of whether the organization or the client practices any religion, so the money can only be used for non-religious services, Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Scott Hardin said last month.

Some pregnancy resource center directors said in August they would not apply for the grant. They said they feared accepting government money could restrict their religious missions even if the money would help them expand their services.

The finance department held a Zoom meeting last month so potential applicants could ask questions about the grant. Hardin said Monday the department will accept more applications for the remaining grant money, with the new application window still to be determined.

“We anticipate increased interest as applicants now understand the process,” Hardin said in an email.

The grantees must spend the money by June 30. Any money left over in the grant fund will be returned to the state’s general revenue fund.

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Tess Vrbin, Arkansas Advocate
Tess Vrbin, Arkansas Advocate

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri. A Midwesterner by birth, she graduated from the University of Missouri's journalism school in 2019.

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