Over $500,000 from tornado-relief fund to go to organizations, individuals, Little Rock mayor says

Victims, groups to split $510,000

City Directors (from left) Joan Adcock, Capi Peck and Kathy Webb join Mayor Frank Scott Jr. as he gives an update on tornado recovery funds on May 19, 2023, at a news conference in the City Hall rotunda. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)
City Directors (from left) Joan Adcock, Capi Peck and Kathy Webb join Mayor Frank Scott Jr. as he gives an update on tornado recovery funds on May 19, 2023, at a news conference in the City Hall rotunda. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)


Approximately $510,000 in donations the city of Little Rock collected in the aftermath of the March 31 tornado that struck the metro area will be distributed to organizations as well as affected residents, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. announced at a City Hall news conference on Friday.

Roughly $200,000, or 40% of the total, will be distributed to organizations, Scott said. The remaining $310,000, or 60% of the total, will be distributed as grants to affected residents with the help of a third-party contractor, he said.

The city released the following list of organizations that are expected to receive funding:

Immanuel Baptist Church ($40,000)

Goodwill Industries of Arkansas ($25,000)

American Red Cross ($25,000)

United Way ($25,000)

Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief ($25,000)

Calvary Baptist Church ($20,000)

Samaritan's Purse ($20,000)

The Van ($20,000)

Groups receiving funding "will have to sign a memorandum of understanding to ensure that these dollars go directly towards tornado recovery efforts, not to administrative expenses," Scott said.

To do the work of identifying tornado-affected residents within the city of Little Rock and distributing direct aid to them, the city will procure a vendor, Scott said.

He emphasized that city officials were committed to distributing 100% of the contributions in support of residents and the recovery effort.

After the tornado hit, city officials began collecting contributions to what they called the Little Rock Cares fund, which they said would be overseen by the city's Finance Department.

Scott on Friday explained that the fund was a preexisting 501(c)(3) set up during the covid-19 pandemic. Officials repurposed it in order to make dollars available after the tornado, he said.

According to slides shown during the news conference, $484,780.27 has been donated and another $25,000 pledged for a total of $509,780.27.

Details on the specific criteria individuals will have to meet to be eligible to receive aid as well as the size of the grants victims can expect to receive were not made available.

A city news release issued Friday afternoon said, "The City of Little Rock will select a third-party administrator to manage distribution of individual grants funded by Little Rock Cares. The City will select a qualified administrator to develop and manage the application and award process for the individual payments."

Scott suggested a 501(c)(3) group would likely serve as the third-party contractor. He mentioned United Way and the Arkansas Community Foundation as examples of the type of organization that could carry out the work.

He confirmed the third-party group will not get paid out of the charitable fund in exchange for managing the distribution of the grants.

If necessary, officials could turn to the Little Rock Board of Directors to approve a payment out of the city's general fund to offset the organization's expenses, Scott said.

The announcement at the tornado-recovery briefing Friday came 10 days after Scott was questioned at a city board meeting about the pace toward distribution of the money.

City Director Capi Peck, the representative for Little Rock's heavily-damaged Ward 4, said at the time that donors were anxious to see the city act.


  photo  Little Rock Fire Department Assistant Chief Phillip Durham gives an update on Fire Station No. 9’s recovery Friday in the City Hall rotunda. The station will need to be demolished and rebuilt, Durham said. He estimated that it would take at least two years. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)