TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — The Tompkins County legislature’s Tuesday meeting worked through a relatively light agenda with basically two major items, one of which was the official adoption of Juneteenth as a paid holiday for county employees.

The full meeting video is available here, while the meeting agenda can be seen here.

Juneteenth serves as a commemoration of the hardships African-Americans suffered in the fight for freedom from slavery and equality in society, a celebration of Black culture and success in America, and a push for continued social progress in the country.

It was a measure considered overdue by the Legislature Chair Shawna Black (D-District 11), who said, “It’s important that we recognize our history. It’s about time…we’re likely one of the last employers to allow Juneteenth as a holiday. I’m glad to see us take this step forward.”

The resolution passed unanimously.

Tompkins County Recovery Grant Program

The other major item on the legislature’s agenda was the approval of the MRB Group to assist in administering the “Tompkins County Recovery Grant Program.”

MRB was voted on unanimously by the legislature, ending a months-long search for an administrator to assist in distributing $6.5M in grants to local businesses and organizations that have suffered financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Legislators have previously admitted that this program has been slow to take off.

Tompkins County Administrator Lisa Holmes said that the MRB Group “rose to the top” of the pile of applications to help administer the program and added that she believed the group would be of great assistance in making the grant administration process “equitable and expeditious.”

The MRB Group is a consulting group with offices across Upstate New York, offering municipalities services ranging from engineering to master planning and grant writing.

Legislator Dan Klein (D-District 7) made note that the MRB Group’s application stipulated that they would charge the county for each grant it assisted in processing and administering rather than accept a lump sum for their work. 

Klein said, “It seems like […] the amount we’re going to pay them is a little bit unknown.”

The amount budgeted for the grant program to pay for the administrative support of the MRB Group is $125,000. 

Holmes said on Tuesday that the agreement  “is a work in progress,” acknowledging that the funds may exceed the budgeted amount, but noted to Klein and the public that the $125,000 payment is considered an accurate estimation for the work that MRB is expected to perform.

The MRB Group is meant to support the county in processing and administering the grant program. Ultimately, it will be up to the county’s elected officials to decide which grant applications will be rewarded.

The grants will range from $10-$25K, from $25,001-$250,000, and from $250,001 and up. Each of these grant types will draw from three different pots of funds, respectively from a $500,000, $1.5M, and $4M allotment.

The structure of the program, like application details, is yet to be designed.

Jimmy Jordan

Jimmy Jordan is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn