City Nonprofits Seek Funding After Proposed Cuts to Grants

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Proposed cuts to federal grants that fund community service and development projects have left many nonprofit organizations in the city that rely on these funds increasingly uncertain about their financial future and in search of diversified funding streams to sustain services.

President Barack Obama's proposed 2012 fiscal year budget outlines a 50 percent reduction for the Community Services Block Grant, which is allocated to poverty alleviation services, and a 7.5 percent decrease in the Community Development Block Grant, which funds public works projects. The city of Berkeley distributes both funds - which account for about $1.44 million in development and service projects for fiscal year 2011 - to more than 50 nonprofit organizations.

Obama's budget also proposes a 44 percent cut to the community service grant through December of this year. The city is scheduled to adopt its 2012 fiscal year budget in June - six months before the federal 2012 fiscal year begins - and expects to receive less than the historically granted $1.57 million.

"We get this money on a calendar year basis and we do budget on a fiscal year basis," said Drew King, community services and administration manager for the city. "There's a whole bunch of moving parts at the federal level. We can't really know until the vote. There's a lot of uncertainty."

In the next year, the federal community service grant - of which the city currently receives about $174,000 annually - may be distributed on a competitive basis, holding benefactors accountable to tangible results, according to Kenneth Wolfe, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families.

The federal government is more reluctant to reduce funding for the development grant - of which the city currently receives about $1.27 million - because it funds a much wider range of community development projects and is spent at the city's discretion.

While decreased federal funding for these grants is debated, nonprofits are increasingly seeking alternative sources of funding to fill a potential financial void.

"We've told every organization that there will be cuts ... It shouldn't come as a shock," said Vincent Casalaina, chair of the Housing Advisory Commission, which oversees distribution of the community development grant.

The city's nonprofits have suffered cuts in the past, but nothing as "drastic and vague," Casalaina said.

Inter-City Services Inc., a Berkeley nonprofit that provides vocational and training services, receives nearly $133,000 in community development funds annually. Mansour Id-Deen, executive director for the organization, said reduced funding would be a "serious blow" to the organization, which he said serves over 1,000 residents each year.

"This is coming at a time when people are struggling throughout our country," Id-Deen said. "I hope those cuts do not go forward."

Deborah Bellush, executive director for Biotech Partners - a Berkeley a nonprofit academic and vocational training program that receives about $71,000 in community development funds - said that although reduced funding would impact support for low-income families, in-client support from companies, such as Bayer Healthcare, covers crucial costs like rent.

"We have learned long and hard how to do more with less," Bellush said.


Yousur Alhlou covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]

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