‘Something That Slipped Through the Cracks’: Selectmen Vow To Support VFW’s $15,000 ARPA Request


New Canaan Town Hall, built 1909, according to tax records. Credit: Michael Dinan

After New Canaan’s legislative body pushed back on an earlier snub, the Board of Selectmen has promised to support a local veterans group’s modest request for a share of federal funds.

Members of VFW Post 653 last fall detailed their need for $15,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding after the pandemic forced them to cancel the main way the organization raises money each year to place flags and wreaths on the gravestones of veterans interred in New Canaan. 

Yet when the selectmen voted in favor of recommendations for ARPA funding for nonprofits, the VFW was left off—a snub that garnered no comment at the Board of Finance but strong pushback at the Town Council.

During their Aug. 9 meeting, the selectmen revisited the issue while taking up a larger round ($715,000) of recommended ARPA allocations. 

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said there’s been “a lot of press about this item.” He said that when the head of the New Canaan Community Foundation—an organization tapped by the town to vet applications for ARPA funding from nonprofits—explained its recommendations in June, “she indicated there were several applicants that were being returned to the town and several applicants that were being denied.”

“And I understood at the time that the VFW was in the denied category as being ‘not ARPA eligible’ ” Moynihan said. “If I had known that [they were], we would have discussed it on the [June] 28th or we would have agreed to have further discussion about it.” (In fact, Moynihan during the Town Council’s July 20 meeting appeared to assert—incorrectly—that the VFW did not have tax-exempt status as a nonprofit organization under the Internal Revenue Code.)

Moynihan added during the selectmen’s Aug. 9 meeting that town officials met recently with the commander and senior vice commander of the VFW to discuss “what happened with 2020 and 2021 when they were unable to raise money with the sale of poppies and donations.”

“They have done this program with wreaths and flags at the cemetery for years with private donations and they clearly had a COVID exposure, and so I think it’s pretty clear that everybody supports the vets and supports the VFW, so I would recommend we move this on to the Board of Finance and Town Council for their consideration,” Moynihan said.

It wasn’t immediately clear why town officials needed to meet again with the VFW, which made its case to the Town Council during a public hearing last October. 

There, VFW member John McLane, a U.S. Army captain in Vietnam, said the organization had spent a great deal of money in recent years on the veterans’ plaques that hang inside the northern entrance to Town Hall. The main way the VFW raises funds to purchase flags and wreaths to place on the gravestones of veterans in New Canaan twice per year—by giving away poppies, a symbol of remembrance of World War I—was canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic, McLane said.

“It costs us about $12,000 to buy the wreaths alone, and we buy them from the Exchange Club to keep it in town,” McLane said at the Oct. 5 Town Council meeting, which was attended by Selectman Kathleen Corbet and Moynihan staffer Tucker Murphy, according to meeting minutes. “So this is the first year we’ve really gone out to raise funds because we’re usually able to get it when we pass out poppies on Memorial Day …. we look for a quarter here or a dollar there to try and raise the funds for what was last year $15,000. Next year will probably be $17,000, that’s our whole budget.”

Corbet said during last week’s meeting, “Sounds like something that slipped through the cracks and we should go forward.”

Ultimately, since the finance board and Town Council aren’t scheduled to meet in August anyway, the selectmen decided to wait until their Aug. 23 meeting to formally vote on the VFW’s $15,000 request for ARPA funding as part of a larger block of allocations. Moynihan said one $400,000 item that has not yet been detailed but relates to the New Canaan YMCA also will be part of the Aug. 23 discussion. With the allocations discussed last week, the town would have spent—assuming the other funding bodies support the selectmen’s recommendations—about $5 million of the $6 million in total ARPA funds allotted to New Canaan. The New Canaan Y allocation would leave about $600,000.

One thought on “‘Something That Slipped Through the Cracks’: Selectmen Vow To Support VFW’s $15,000 ARPA Request

  1. As member of NSDAR Hannah Benedict Carter NC chapter & other similar lineage organizations, I’m still appalled how such total disregard to allocate for VFW considering how vital this organization is to the community. Married Vietnam Veteran, over 30 classmates NCHS 65 were drafted served. Shameful display of what is truly important.

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