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April 26, 2003

Small nonprofits see funding slashed

From: The Argus, CA - Apr 26, 2003

Four social-service groups scratched from city's budget
By Scott Wong

Saturday, April 26, 2003 - FREMONT -- Robert Kalkman knows that small nonprofit groups are the real losers in the city's budget crunch.

The director of mental health at St. Joseph's Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which was cut out of the city's 2003-04 budget earlier this week, said if city officials are going to pour tens of thousands of dollars into a program, they want it to make a big impact in the community.

"Organizations helping people with a low-incidence disability get the shaft because they provide services to a smaller number of people," he said.

The Hayward-based organization, which received more than $10,000 in city funding last year, provides a number of counseling and educational services for the deaf and hard of hearing community in Fremont and other parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

But on Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved the Human Relations Commission recommendations to cut 17 percent of its funding -- more than $100,000 -- for 17 social-service programs.

Councilmembers said the cuts were not across-the-board.

"When you're handing money out, you have to do it on a performance basis," Vice Mayor Bill Pease said. "You have to make sure the organizations are performing and are doing what they say they were going to do, and that they're making the biggest impact in the community."

The city staff recommended a 23.6 percent cut, but the council approved a 17.4 percent cut backed by the commission, preserving funding for three additional programs.

Thirteen programs were cut 2 percent or less by the council, while four programs at the tail-end of the rating system were cut out of the budget completely.

The Tri-City Homeless Coalition -- the largest recipient of the human-service grants -- will receive $159,111 this fiscal year, just $3,200 less than the previous year.

But the Federation of Indian Associations' Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence, which received about $27,000 in city funding last year, will get nothing this year.

It will have to rely on other grants and donations from the community, said Yogi Chugh, spokesman of the federation's Northern California chapter.

"It is a big loss, but we understand the unique financial situation Fremont is in right now," said Chugh, who has been involved with the federation for 15 years. "We believe in the program, and the show will go on. The cause is too important for us to back off."

Fremont resident Cecilia Chang, who sits on the eight-member Human Relations Commission, said if commissioners could have it their way, no funding would be slashed from social-services programs.

But Chang alluded to some flaws in the funding process. She said the playing field was far from level for smaller agencies competing for public funds.

Large, well-known organizations that have a long history with the city don't have as much trouble proving they need the funds as small or little-heralded agencies, she said.

"We have to give some agencies a better infrastructure to begin with," she said. "They are not equal with the others and they cannot be measured the same."

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