United Way Funding Cuts Are Deep
Austin’s nonprofits were caught off guard last month when United Way for Greater Austin announced a $1.2 million funding cut. The announcement also delivered another blow: The cut was retroactive to July 1 three weeks before the nonprofits were informed of it. United Way has reduced funding before, but canceling funding mid-contract was a first.
Last spring the 22 partner nonprofits received enthusiastic contract renewal notices and began the process of determining outcomes for their funded programs. Nonprofit leaders and many others across the community were aware that donations to United Way had been sliding for the past few years. So it was not a surprise when meetings with United Way in May and June touched on the possibility of cuts for 2013-2014. However, there was no indication that funds for 2012 were in danger.
We understand that United Way has been working on refocusing their business model and fundraising strategies. We appreciated the efforts of the United Way staff and board to maintain funding for as long as possible; including spending their savings to maintain grants while the economy was at its worst. But it is critical for the community to understand the magnitude of this decision to reduce funding greater Austin’s safety net for some of our most vulnerable people.
The resulting cuts focused primarily on two of United Way’s “focus areas”: Health and Financial Stability. The Health focus area includes Primary Care, Behavioral Health and Older Adults. United Way virtually eliminated the Health focus area, with 11 health-focused agencies losing 100 percent of their funding. Some of the most respected nonprofits in Central Texas are on the list. And, despite the rapidly growing senior population in Central Texas, all nonprofits serving older adults lost 100 percent of their funding,
The non-profits that lost 100 percent of their United Way Funding included:
■ AIDS Services of Austin ($55,000)
■ AGE of Central Texas ($72,000)
■ Austin Habitat for Humanity ($38,500)
■ Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry & Support Center ($50,000)
■ BIG Austin ($35,000)
■ Capital IDEA ($100,000)
■ The Care Communities ($20,000)
■ Family Eldercare ($64,000)
■ Frameworks Community Development Corporation Inc. ($38,500)
■ Goodwill Industries of Central Texas ($85,000)
■ Manos De Cristo ($45,000)
■ Meals on Wheels and More ($76,500)
■ PeopleFund ($35,000)
■ People’s Community Clinic ($55,000)
■ Project Transitions ($45,000)
■ The Salvation Army ($60,000)
■ Volunteer Healthcare Clinic ($45,000)
■ Williamson Burnet County Opportunities Meals on Wheels ($30,000)
Nonprofits that lost substanital United Way funding included:
■ Any Baby Can ($30,000)
■ SafePlace ($35,000)
■ LifeWorks (($140,000)
■ Foundation Communities ($69,000)
Even within the Financial Stability focus area, which remains a priority area for United Way, eight organizations lost all their funding. With almost 25 percent of Travis County living under the poverty level, services that offer foreclosure prevention, financial literacy, education and employment provide the keys to breaking the cycle and build financial independence.
United Way’s decision to reduce or eliminate grants to so many providers of critical services has created an enormous challenge for area nonprofits, and an immediate crisis for some. United Way’s after-the-fact communication with partner nonprofits about this situation has created unnecessary instability in the fabric of our community’s human services support network with no opportunity for proper transition planning. Some agencies will be forced to conduct lay-offs and reduce services immediately.
As importantly, we lost the opportunity to engage in finding alternative solutions and sources that might have mitigated the unexpected loss of $1.2 million in 2012 /2013 funding in order to minimize the urgent response it triggered. And those concerns are primarily short-term. What of the long-term? We need to work with United Way leadership and other community partners to help present a community plan for regaining the lost ground of the past five years, and to repair the gaps in our community safety net it once championed so capably. We hope you will review the list of agencies affected by this decision and step forward to support them today.
This article was a joint submission to The Statesman by Joyce Lauck, executive director, AGE of Central Texas; Paul Scott, executive director, AIDS Services of Austin; Kelly Weiss, president and CEO of Austin Habitat for Humanity; Tresha Silva, executive director, Bastrop Community Emergency Food Pantry; Stacy Rhone, executive director, BIG Austin; Steve Jackobs, executive director, Capital IDEA; Angela Atwood, CEO, Family Eldercare; Joyce McDonald, executive director, Frameworks Community Development Corp.; Gerald Davis, CEO, Goodwill Industries of Central Texas; Susan McDowell, executive director, LifeWorks; Julie Ballesteros, executive director, Manos de Cristo; Dan Pruett, president and CEO, Meals on Wheels and More; Regina Rogoff, CEO, People’s Community Clinic; Josh Allen, executive director, Project Transitions; Carol Johnson, executive director, The Care Communities; Marci Roe, executive director, Volunteer Healthcare Clinic; and Andrew Shell, executive director, Williamson Burnet County Opportunities Meals on Wheels.