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December 7, 2012

'Cliff' a concern for area nonprofits

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — One aspect of the fiscal cliff negotiations has the potential to affect area nonprofits and human service agencies, several officials said Thursday.

Along with the fate of Bush-era tax cuts, lawmakers will decide the fate of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that were the result of last year’s debt ceiling talks. If nothing is changed, half of the cuts would come from defense, and half would come from domestic programs that will have a local impact.

National Council of Nonprofits President Tim Delaney said these cuts nationwide include $600 million for Head Start, $2 billion for rental assistance and $543 million for the Women, Infants and Children program, which provides federal grants to states for supplemental food and nutrition education for low-income women and children.

Opportunities for Otsego Executive Director Dan Maskin said the negotiations will determine how big the impact will be on programs his agency helps administers in the county. This includes Head Start and day care, homeless programs and weatherization. If Washington legislators are looking at major deficit reductions there are only a few areas to look at, he said.

Domestic discretionary programs that affect his agency are one of them, he said, and other areas include defense, Social Security, Medicare and interest on the debt. Right now he is hearing a lot of “rhetoric” on the issues, he said, and more should be known about a solution in the next few weeks, but he has no sense of what the outcome will be.

He said he does know the cuts won’t make the problems go away, noting that if there’s less funding to care for the homeless, it could lead to higher motel prices and more use of area police, he said. A lack of daycare would impact working families, he said.

Federal funding for senior meals and caregiver services would be affected if the cuts aren’t averted, said Otsego County for the Aging Director Frances Wright. She wasn’t sure of the exact impact. She was making elected officials aware of the problem.

“I’m hoping they work it out,” she said, adding that she did not want to speculate on the likelihood.

Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care President and CEO Lola Rathbone said her agency faces a reduction in reimbursements because of the fiscal cliff talks.

This is not as dramatic as some of the cuts others are facing.

“Right now we are doing okay,” she said. “We won’t suffer as much as some of the smaller hospices, because we have good community support.”

But she was hoping the agency avoided the impact.

Otsego County Deputy Commissioner of Social Services Eve Bouboulis said her department was particularly interested in possible cuts to HEAP and the Housing and Urban Development’s homeless assistance program. She didn’t want to comment on the state of negotiations.

Delaware Opportunities Executive Director John Eberhard said the current proposals call for about a 9-percent cut in programs including Headstart, which would result in 21 children not being served; weatherization, which would affect five families; and the Home Energy Assistance Program, which would affect 72 families.

“It’s very important they work things out,” he said.

Delaware County Social Services Commissioner William Moon said his agency works with Delaware Opportunities and Office for the Aging in administering many of the programs that will be affected if the cuts take place. However he noted programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Children’s Health Insurance Program are not affected. If there are not enough funds available for the programs, the county and state governments and nonprofits will have to make up the difference, he said.

“There has to be a better way,” to deal with federal budget issues, he said. “I am hoping for the best.”