News Column

Buffalo United Way Facing Community Program Cuts

Jan 28, 2013

Jay Tokasz

The United Way of Buffalo & Erie County is eliminating seven programs from its community investment plan for 2013 to 2015, while agreeing to fund 17 human services programs it hadn't previously.

United Way officials announced last week that 86 local programs will split about $3.9 million in the first year of the plan, which begins in July.

The African-American Cultural Center, EPIC -- Every Person Influences Children -- Hispanics United of Buffalo, the YWCA of Western New York, the Salvation Army and Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara Counties were among agencies facing cuts in United Way funding.

Competition for the organization's limited funding continues to be intense, United Way President Michael Weiner said.

"It's complicated by the fact that organizations are not seeing a decrease in demand for services," he said.

Agencies submitted 137 applications asking for $9.5 million for their programs.

The grants were determined through a grading process that had community volunteers -- along with representatives from local government and colleges and universities -- reviewing applications and scoring them to measure the effectiveness of programs.

"The YWCA is disappointed that the United Way does not recognize the quality of the programs we offer to families of the working poor," said Deborah Lynn Williams, chief executive officer of the YWCA, which will lose $26,510.

The agency used the money to support its early childhood centers, where working parents enroll their children so they can go to their own jobs. The parents, who can't afford private child care, receive a subsidized rate through Erie County, but that subsidy isn't enough to cover all of the YWCA's costs, said Williams.

Just five years ago, the YWCA was receiving more than $200,000 in United Way money for five separate programs. Cuts in 2009 forced the agency to close sites and lay off staff.

"We have not recovered from it," Williams said. "Every person has got 2 1/2 jobs now. Everybody's taxed."

In June, the agency will no longer get any grant money from United Way, aside from the donations that individual givers designate to it through the United Way payroll campaign.

EPIC will lose $65,000 for its parenting preparation program, Ready, Set, Parent.

The African-American Cultural Center lost $46,000 for an educational cultural enrichment program.

The Salvation Army lost nearly half of the $62,000 grant for its emergency family assistance, and a $10,000 grant that Hispanics United used for a program to combat domestic violence was eliminated.

Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara Counties received $35,000 for a youth development program. But a $25,000 grant for a Native American elders program was not renewed.

Executive Director Michael Martin said he wasn't sure his agency would be able to continue the program, which allows area senior citizens to get together at least twice a month at the Native American Community Services offices on Grant Street for story sharing, craft making, euchre and lunch.

"We'll clearly try to do something. It might not be to the scale it is now," he said.

Weiner said the elders program was worthwhile but didn't score as well in the United Way review as other programs for seniors. "There's a lot of competition for elder services," he said.

The United Way is seeking to raise $13.7 million in its current campaign, which continues through March.

At least $3.9 million of that will go toward the program investments, with the possibility of more depending on the final results of the campaign, said Weiner. Another $721,000 will go to the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities of Buffalo, Western New York 2-1-1 and Labor Services for programs outside the competitive grant process.

The United Way also spends more than $2 million on its own initiatives, including Creating Assets, Savings & Hope and Closing the Gap in Student Performance and pays out about $4 million to agencies in gifts designated by donors.

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



Source: (c) 2013 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.)


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