Thursday, October 17, 2013
Local non-profits feel ripple effect of government shutdown
Whether directly or indirectly, local organizations say the shutdown is hurting them.
Much of the talk about the government shutdown has centered on the Affordable Care Act and the consequences of the United States defaulting on its debt obligations.
However, closer-to-home nonprofits that rely on government funding are feeling the shutdown where it hurts the most -- their pocketbooks.
Hope's Door, Collin County's largest domestic violence shelter, served 300 people in 2012 but had to turn another 320 away because of a lack of resources. The shelter has an annual operating budget of $1.9 million, with about 20 percent of that coming from grants and programs offered by the federal government. Since the shutdown, Hope's Door has lost access to nearly $400,000 in grant funds, causing the organization to dip into its fund balance.
"We are paid on a reimbursement basis," said Pat Tosi, Hope's Door executive director. "So while we are allocated a certain amount of money, we don't see that money until after we have spent it. With the government shutdown, there is no one to process the reimbursement payments."
The six grants Hope's Door is no longer receiving payment for are used to fund the counseling programs for victims of domestic violence and their children. Funding for the agency's victim advocate program is also being delayed.
"These advocates help prepare the victims to go to court and let them know how things are going to proceed," Tosi said. "They are not doing legal work, but they are accompanying them along the way because as they go into that court room and they see the perpetrator, most of the time they drop the charges because they are scared and won't go forward with the case. That makes the cycle continue."
Tosi said she is worried the funding issues will continue even after the shutdown ends, noting that there will likely be delays because of the backlog of paperwork that must be processed.
A more frightening matter, Tosi noted, is that no one is sure the funding they have been granted will actually be there when it is needed.
"We have been fortunate that we have been able to support these programs through our fund balance, but that won't go on forever," she said. "They are appropriating less and less money toward our cause so it is a gamble each year. They haven't approved a budget in Washington and they are going to be looking at all programs, and grants like ours are often what is cut."
After losing 98 percent of its United Way funding several years ago, Hope's Door began making an effort to diversify its funding. Tosi said that is still a work in progress, and the organization is actively seeking donations and partnerships.
The effects of the shutdown were not felt at The Samaritan Inn, the McKinney-based homeless shelter. Lynne Sipiora, executive director, said the shelter receives less than 5 percent of its funding from government sources, something that is increasingly important as government funding becomes less reliable.
While the shutdown didn't hurt The Samaritan Inn, Sipiora is worried cuts to programs such as food stamps or housing vouchers could increase the financial burden on already struggling families, thereby forcing them into homelessness.
"We are full every single day of the year, so that would certainly impact us," she said.
In May, the organization purchased 15 acres to construct a new shelter, and will begin a capital campaign to raise $7 million early next year. When the first phase of the expansion is complete, The Samaritan Inn will be able to house about 560 people per night compared to the 160 it houses now.
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