With new budget proposal, nonprofits remain concerned

New London — At the end of a meeting of about 15 employees of local nonprofits, Michele Scott looked Monday at a page of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's newest state budget proposal, his fourth, to see the impact.

Scott is executive director of the Eastern Area Health Education Center, one of four AHEC regions in the state. Under the University of Connecticut Health Center, the budget reads: "Eliminate AHEC."

The Democratic budget proposal from September gave AHEC $374,566 for each of the next two years, but the new proposal eliminates that money. A further impact is that federal funding is based on a state match.

Scott said the cut will directly affect the Youth Health Service Corps and the Collegiate Health Service Corps, pipeline programs that get underserved community members into health careers.

Scott was at the Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut for one of the listening tour sessions the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance is holding around the state.

As has been the case for the past several months, the hot topic was the budget. With Alliance members seated around the table, Malloy released his latest budget proposal.

"This is a lean, no-frills, no-nonsense budget," the governor said in a news release. "Our goals were simple in putting this plan together: eliminate unpopular tax increases, incorporate ideas from both parties, and shrink the budget and its accompanying legislation down to their essential parts."

He added about passing a budget, "Time is of the essence if we want to avoid the most difficult cuts to towns, hospitals, and nonprofits."

His plan involves spending $144 million less in the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years than the administration previously proposed, with some of the reduction coming through cuts to departments on which nonprofits rely for funding.

Compared to Malloy's previous budget proposal, this budget reduces the Department of Social Services budget by $13.42 million over the next two years, and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services budget by $1.59 million.

The governor's DSS budget includes the elimination of Human Resource Development — Hispanic Programs, Family Programs through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and two teen pregnancy prevention line items.

But the largest DSS cut is $11.8 million from the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders, which helps senior citizens with medical needs to stay in their homes instead of getting placed in nursing homes.

For DMHAS, the budget includes cuts for legal services and grants for mental health services.

Jeff Shaw, public policy director of the Alliance, commented that cuts to the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders will end up costing more in both the short run and the long run, considering programs to keep people stable are far less costly than emergency room visits and nursing homes.

Asked about cuts in the various budget proposals, Shaw responded that "they're all bad" for nonprofits.

Wendy Bury, executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition, said one impact of budgetary uncertainty she's seeing is that schools are not booking field trips, which adversely affects arts and culture organizations.

She commented that a push to replace state funding with public funding would lead to a highly competitive environment among nonprofits.

But the discussion at the listening session was also around how nonprofits can collaborate, in part so services aren't duplicated.

Richard Calvert, chief executive officer of the Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, said the agency is no longer able to do more with less and has been doing less with less for the past two years.

A year ago, the agency closed four of its 18 school-based health centers.

Explaining the benefit of these health centers, Calvert asked, "If you're a single working parent, for example, who's pieced together three part-time jobs to keep your nose above water, when would you take your kid to the doctor?"

While many nonprofit employees are concerned about cuts included in the budget, Calvert is also concerned about those that aren't.

"Nothing is settled until everything is settled," he said, "so just because a program in one of the half-dozen-ish proposed budgets so far doesn't have a laser red targeted dot on their forehead, doesn't mean it won't show up in the 11th hour."

e.moser@theday.com

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