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The Oasis Projects risks losing $1M in ARPA funds

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GREENWOOD Dist.–The Oasis Projects, an organization dedicated to solving food insecurity in north Tulsa, risks losing $1 million in federal funding as Tulsa County seeks repayment of $157,000 it says was spent on ineligible purchases.

The organization, which does business as the Oasis Fresh Foundation, is the nonprofit arm of the for-profit Oasis Fresh Market grocery store.

When it opened in 2021, the full-service grocery store ended a decades-long food desert in the heart of the city’s Black community.

AJ Johnson, founder of Oasis Fresh Market and executive director of The Oasis Projects, has overseen a surge in support and programs positively impacting residents who’ve long been neglected in a highly segregated city.

oasis projects
Oasis Projects

However, a recent letter from the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office risks throwing a major wrench in the organization’s work for north Tulsa.

In a statement to The Black Wall Street Times, Johnson acknowledged the letter and pledged to repay the funds.

“Monday we learned that one of our contractors was not an allowable expense and therefore the expenditures need to be repaid. we are happy to reapy these funds to Tulsa County,” Johnson said in a statement he previously sent to Tulsa World.

The Oasis Projects wants to “continue doing the work”

First reported by Tulsa World, the letter, which was approved by county commissioners, claims The Oasis Projects spent $157,000 of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds on a consultant, a local charity, subwoofers, window tinting, smoked tail lights and other items for a van the nonprofit purchased.

Johnson denied purchasing subwoofers in a message sent to The Black Wall St. Times.

According to the letter, the expenditures either weren’t documented correctly, failed to meet the federal eligibility requirements or deviated from the stated mission of the organization.

“The violations listed above are by no means an exhaustive list, but merely the largest and most concerning,” the letter states.

Meanwhile, weeks after Oasis partnered with other organizations to gift Thanksgiving dinners to thousands of families, Johnson has no intention of giving up on serving the community.

Oasis was first awarded a $1 million contract with Tulsa Couty in November 2021, “and we began work immediately due to the need,” Johnson stated.

Notably, over 102 years after the Tulsa Race Massacre, residents in historically Black north Tulsa continue to face a near 10-year life expectancy gap with neighbors on the other side of the Frisco train tracks.

“14 months later (January 2023) we got additional guidelines from Tulsa County and were asked to sign it,” Johnson stated. “We will continue doing the work of serving people and meeting the needs of others.”

oasis projects

In total, the $157,000 Oasis Projects must repay involves $145,043 paid to consultant Marc Jones, $5,830 in vehicle upgrades, and charity cash payments of $6,038 to Families in Crisis.

Nondoc previously reported in February and August allegations of financial misconduct under the leadership of A.J. Johnson that resulted in the state legislature pulling the plug on a plan to provide $30 million for four more Oasis grocery stores.

A plan to install a second Oasis Fresh Market downtown was scratched as well, with a out-of-state developer citing concerns from previous news coverage.

In addition, former managers and employees who spoke with The BWSTimes recounted a hostile work environment under Johnson’s leadership.

Nevertheless, Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.

The Black Wall Street Times reached out to the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office to ask how many other local organizations risk losing ARPA funding. We did not receive a response.

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