Dollars tight for human services grants

November 11, 2008

By Jon Savelle

Each year, the City Council considers grant funding for human services providers, and always there are hard choices to make. This year, it is even harder: 44 grant applications, totaling $359,490, were received by the Human Services Commission, but only $211,000 is available in the proposed 2009 city budget.

The funding that applicants actually receive, if any, is decided by the City Council. On Nov. 12, the council’s Services and Operations Committee will review the commission’s recommendations, then make its own recommendation to the full council Dec. 1.

It is not unusual for an applicant, such as Eastside Baby Corner, to receive a smaller grant than it requests. For 2009, the nonprofit requested $20,000 but the commission is recommending $10,500.

While that is nearly half of the amount requested, it is higher than the 2008 grant of $6,200.

Elder and Adult Day Services is in the same boat. For 2008, the group was granted $11,000 by the city, and for 2009, it requested $20,000. The commission, however, recommends funding $13,000.

Some groups have been recommended for funding at their 2008 level, others for less and some for no funding at all.

AtWork!, a sheltered workshop and job-training enterprise for people with disabilities, has traditionally been supported by the city with a few thousand dollars per year. In 2008, the amount was $5,463, and the group’s request for 2009 was $5,800. But the commission recommends no funding for the organization this time.

This was news to Jane Kuechle, chief development officer for AtWork!, who said the human services grant is used for the community liaison fund, which finds regular employment for persons with disabilities. Three other Eastside cities also support the program.

“We had asked for a renewal of that,” Kuechle said.

With the national economy in tatters and increasing numbers of people unemployed, contributions to human service providers are going down just as the need for them increases.

The problem is particularly acute for Eastside Baby Corner, a clearinghouse for family items that are handed out by dozens of other service agencies. Some of these items are donated, said Executive Director Karen Ridlon, but most have to be purchased by the organization.

“We have over 900 items ordered in a week,” she said. “We are making up almost 200 bags of clothes a week for kids. We went from 20 cans of baby formula per week to 40 cans of formula, at $13 a can. The needs are huge.”

As people in need place greater demands on local agencies, the agencies turn to Eastside Baby Corner for help. Many have asked for larger allotments than they have gotten in the past, but Ridlon said the resources just aren’t available.

“Right now, what we need is dollars,” she said. “We need the community to rally around and support us, because when the funds go to Eastside Baby Corner, they go to every agency that supports kids on the Eastside. Every single person who interacts with families on the Eastside gets their stuff from us.”

Among the other agencies recommended for funding are the Eastside Domestic Violence Program — $15,700; the Youth and Family Services program of Friends of Youth — $22,300; the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center — $6,100; and the YWCA’s Family Village housing program — $8,000.

Most of these agencies rely on grants from a variety of sources, not just Issaquah. But those grants, particularly from King County, are taking huge cuts this year. Agency groups such as the Alliance of Eastside Agencies say the consequences will be devastating to programs and the people they serve.

Knowing this, the Issaquah Human Services Commission has recommended additional funding for some groups if the money becomes available. In Agenda Bill 5908, which details the commission’s funding choices, the following additions are suggested.

  • Meals on Wheels — $2,000
  • Elder and Adult Day Services — $5,000
  • Eastside Domestic Violence Program — $5,000
  • Compassion House — $3,000
  • St. Andrews Housing Group — $5,000.

Choosing which agencies to recommend for funding, and for how much, was an exhaustive process. The agenda bill describes it: Each commissioner read each application at least once; completed a 12-question evaluation form for each; reviewed the composite evaluation results; discussed them in 12 hours of meetings; twice developed an individual plan for using the $211,000; compared the plans; and then made a consensus recommendation.

Reach Reporter Jon Savelle at 392-6434, ext. 234, or jsavelle@isspress.com.

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