HANCOCK COUNTY — Six Hancock County organizations will receive a total of just over $70,000 in funding through a state government program aimed at providing relief to cultural nonprofits and tourism groups affected by COVID-19.

The Arts, Cultural and Destination Marketing Organization Support Grants program will award various organizations a total of $10 million of CARES Act funding. The grant is being administered by the Indiana Destination Development Corp. and the Indiana Arts Commission.

The Hancock County Tourism Commission was granted $26,033 from the program, the largest grant in the county. That’s a much smaller amount than it requested; tourism director Brigitte Cook Jones said the organization asked for about $98,000.

Jones said the bulk of the money received will be used for operations and salary costs. Like many organizations, the tourism commission has lost out on revenue during the pandemic. In its case, the loss has been dramatic, because its sole source of revenue is a tax on hotel rooms that have often sat vacant since March.

The tourism commission board has discussed spending about $10,000 of the money on a marketing campaign, aimed at encouraging people to visit local restaurants and shops during the holiday season.

“I hope the board authorizes me to go ahead and do a marketing campaign,” Jones said.

Other organizations will receive money from the program as well. The Hancock County Children's Choir will receive $19,480; the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts will get $8,601; the Riley Festival $8,601; the Hancock County Arts Council $4,815; and the American Military Heritage Foundation $4,330.

Dave Berard, president of the Riley Festival board, also said his organization received less funding from the grant program than leaders had sought, about one-third of their request. However, he was grateful for the amount they received.

“This will be a big help to help offset some of our administrative costs,” Berard said, like paying rent, telephone bills and insurance premiums.

The Ricks Centre will also be using the extra funding to cover operating expenses, said Sarah Wolf, secretary of the board of directors for the Hancock County Visitors Bureau, which operates the theater.

The theater has had ongoing expenses during the pandemic, Wolf said, despite having few events scheduled and lower capacity for those they can host. They recently held a screening for the Manhattan Short Film Festival, which maintained social distancing but attracted less attendance than in previous years.

“We want people to start booking when they feel comfortable doing it,” Wolf said.

Joanna Crump, finance director of the Hancock County Children’s Choir, said the grant will be used to cover employee wages for March through December and to help with sustainability going forward.

Crump said the choir restructured its programming during COVID-19, including offering classes online and enforcing social distancing at its rehearsals, and hopes to go into its 10th anniversary year without having to cut back on funding.

“We had a plan A, B, C, D and E,” Crump said.

Award amounts were determined by a formula that factored in budget size, previous amounts of CARES Act funding received and amount of eligible expenses, according to a news release.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said the grant program will help nonprofits around the state say afloat.

“These organizations help enhance the quality of life here in our great state,” Crouch said. “I am pleased to see the arts and cultural sector, which adds to Indiana’s tourism economy, get this funding.”

Jones said she was heartened by the amount of money the state agencies are putting toward the grant program.

“We’re all hurting, especially arts and cultural organizations,” she said.
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