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County getting $13M in tobacco cash to aid kids

Citizen Staff Writer



Pima County will receive more than $13 million of the tobacco tax funds collected since an 80-cents-a-pack tax increase in 2006.

The money will go to organizations and agencies that provide services to children up to age 5, with an emphasis on groups that provide family support services and child care assistance, said Diane Umstead, First Thing First’s regional manager for southeast Arizona.

First Things First is the state organization that will distribute the tobacco tax money.

The county is divided into three regional areas: north Pima, which covers the Avra Valley and the Catalina foothills; central Pima, which is mostly made up of metro Tucson; and south Pima, which includes Ajo and Vail. Each is headed up by an 11-person volunteer council.

Central Pima will receive the largest bulk, $7.6 million. North Pima will receive $1.7 million and south Pima will get $3.8 million.

The award was announced during a Monday meeting at Pima Community College.

Umstead said organizations and agencies that serve children within the regions are encouraged to submit grant applications. She said the funds will be distributed before June 30.

Because many agencies in the area have lost funding because of state budget cuts, Umstead said she expects those organizations will want to use the grants to supplement what was eliminated.

Umstead said funds will also be used to immediately help organizations in Pima County.

She said $500,000 has been set aside to buy food boxes for the Community Food Bank and other money will be used to help families pay for child care for parents who are going to school or looking for work.

Peg Harmon, vice chairwoman of the First Things First Central Pima Regional Partnership Council, said during the Monday meeting that the county has 81,749 children age 5 and under who could benefit from the First Things First funds.

“Thirteen million dollars in comprehensive services and programs for young children also translates into an economic stimulus for our local communities,” Harmon said.

How to apply

All grant applications must go through the Phoenix office. Grant information may be found online at www.azftf.gov/ WhatWeDoFunding/Pages/ RegionalGrants.aspx.

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