MGC’s Community Mitigation Fund Review Team continues work in virtual setting ahead of 2020 recommendations
With a deadline approaching for the distribution of 2020 Community Mitigation Fund grants, the MGC’s Review Team is working through its meeting process while maneuvering through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Legislature established an important mandate in the gaming law to mitigate unintended impacts associated with the arrival of casino gaming. To that end, the law created the Community Mitigation Fund to support communities and governmental entities in offsetting costs related to the construction and operation of gaming facilities.
Since 2015, the MGC has issued approximately $16 million in funding to advance needs in transportation, non-transportation planning, workforce development and public safety for municipalities and government entities located in the vicinity of the casinos.
Each spring and summer, MGC staff members review policy questions from the prior year’s Community Mitigation Fund guidelines, beginning the program’s yearlong process. Then, in the fall of each year, the group works with Local Community Mitigation Advisory Committees and the Commission to develop new grant application guidelines for the upcoming year.
Based on those guidelines, representatives from host and surrounding communities around each casino submit applications to the MGC by February 1, which are then sent to the Review Team, the Commission, the MGC’s licensees and other agencies for comments.
This year, the Community Mitigation Fund set aside $11.5 million for grants, and the review team received 37 total applications, more than a 50% increase in applications year-over-year from 2019. In comparison, the MGC received 24 applications in 2019, and Community Mitigation Fund grants totaled $6.7 million.
The 2020 Community Mitigation Fund also features a new grant category for applicants to apply: the Transportation Construction Grant.
“This is the first time the program is funding actual construction,” Construction Project Oversight Manager Joe Delaney said. “We expected to fund that category at $3 million, and have received applications for over $5.7 million.”
After receiving all of the year’s applications, the Review Team holds meetings with each applicant to get clarification on certain aspects of applications, and sends a letter to those applicants to outline questions for written responses.
“When we do the reviews of the applications, we already have a pretty good idea about what kinds of questions the Commissioners might have,” Delaney said. “So, we try to get those types of questions answered before we go to the Commission.”
Due to the challenges accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the work for the 2020 Community Mitigation Fund has been moved to a virtual setting, with Review Team members meeting using remote collaboration technology.
In addition to the new types of meetings to accommodate applicants and the increase in applications and funding, the Review Team has fresh faces contributing to the committee’s work, including Commissioner Enrique Zuniga, Research and Responsible Gaming Program Manager Teresa Fiore, and Licensing Coordinator Tania Perez. Carry-overs from last year’s team include:
- Mary Thurlow; Program Manager
- Joe Delaney; Construction Project Oversight Manager
- Commissioner Bruce Stebbins
- Jill Griffin; Director of Workforce, Supplier and Diversity Development
- Crystal Howard; Program Manager, Workforce, Supplier and Diversity Development
- Carrie Torrisi; Associate General Counsel
- Katherine Hartigan; Enforcement Counsel, Investigations and Enforcement Bureau
“Every year, we try to change the makeup of the review team a bit to familiarize other people with the program,” Delaney said.
The committee has received and reviewed all of the grant applications for 2020, and will now deliberate on each, taking into account the information in the applications, the applicant meetings and the corresponding written responses, all before developing recommendations for the Commission.
Commissioners will then go over the applications in one or more public meetings, before eventually voting on which applications will receive funding.
The Review Team expects to complete recommendations by the second week of June, in advance of their presentations before the Commission at the end of June.
To learn more about the 2020 Community Mitigation Fund and this year’s applications, click here.