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The deadline for organizations to apply to receive CARES Act funding for veteran mental health support has been extended until Sunday, November 22 at 11:59 p.m., according to an Arkansas DHS press release.

The funding was approved by the state’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Steering Committee and consists of $3.4 million made available to nonprofit organizations. The funds “must be used or distributed based on the organization’s plan by Dec. 30, 2020,” likely explaining the extension of the original November 18 deadline for applications.

A qualified organization must be a nonprofit veteran service organization that serves Arkansas veterans with a history of serving Arkansas veterans, along with strategies for engaging with them, and have leadership and staff who are Arkansas veterans. The organization must also have been in operation since March 2019.

District 27 Senator Trent Garner, who in September joined several other state Senators in requesting the $50 million from the CARES Act Steering Committee for veteran health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, said the funding can be put to good use by any local organization that assists veterans.

“It’s something I put together about two months ago… This is important for south Arkansas, this funding can be used for a wide range of vet-related issues. Organizations like the VFW and American Legion can apply for this money, and I think food banks and churches can too if they help veterans,” Garner said.

Garner recommended anyone in an organization that in some way serves veterans should at least apply.

“At worst, you’ll apply and get denied. They are lenient right now on getting the money out to help veterans,” Garner said.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic impacts have considerably affected vulnerable populations, including veterans, across the country. A Department of Veterans Affairs study released in March found that around 20 veterans commit suicide daily in the United States, using statistics from before the pandemic.

“I found out that the veteran suicide rate has risen during COVID-19. Nonprofits are stepping up to help veterans with mental health and other needs. Things like direct intervention, food, housing assistance - all that can be done by nonprofits in an effective manner,” Garner said.

Organizations can seek reimbursement through the funds for safety measures such as first aid and trauma supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), activities such as training and professional development, seminars and support groups, food and nutrition or shelter expenses for homeless veterans, outreach campaigns or information technology.

Funding amounts are determined by an organization’s size, ranging from up to $15,000 for groups with zero to four employees to up to $100,000 for those with 30 or more employees.

An information sheet along with the application can be found on the Arkansas Department of Human Services website.

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