State budget crisis rattles nonprofit organizations


With the state already months overdue on approving a budget for the 2010 fiscal year, Northside organizations that rely on state funding are getting jittery.

Our Little Ones Daycare, which opened its doors July 1 on Perrysville Avenue, relies on payments from Pennsylvania’s Child Care Information Services Agency to stay in business, as most of its customers make less than $9 per hour, said owner Tamara Charles.

She said she has not yet seen a dime of the CCIS payments owed her, and is staying afloat on the payments of a few part-time customers who pay in cash and the efforts of a few volunteers who have been kind enough to stick it out until Charles can pay them.

“I’m hanging on a hope and a prayer,” Charles said.

She has been sending letters to other daycares, parents and grandparents asking them to call Senator Jim Ferlo, D-38th District, to advocate state funding for childcare.

Because she opened recently, Charles said she is not feeling the budget crisis as acutely as some other daycares that rely on CCIS funding. She does not yet have a large staff to pay, and has 11 children so far out of a 28-child capacity.

She said paying her yearly insurance fees up front has also helped as she doesn’t need to worry about making monthly payments now when she couldn’t afford to.

Recently Charles said she had to start working a second job in the evening to pay her rent while she waits for state funding.

“It’s going to be a strain on me physically,” she said, but she refuses to take time away from the children in her care. “It’s really a business where we don’t make a lot of money, but what we do have is a love for the children.”

Charles applauded Rendell for holding out on money for childcare, and said she would wait if it meant the budget was done “right.”

“I’m just going to have to hang in here somehow,” she said.

Other, more established organizations have reserve funds for occasions such as this and think they’ll be okay.

Floyd Cephas, executive director of the North Side Christian Health Center, said that the center would be alright for awhile without the state money.

“If that money does not come through it will certainly cause a hiccup in the budget,” he added.

The health center recently submitted its quarterly expense report for April, May and June, Cephas said, and he expects funding to come through 45 days after the state receives it, although the center does have reserves to draw on in case the money does not come through.

“It’s always a timing issue,” he said. “It’s coming … but when?”

Life Pittsburgh, an organization that offers alternatives to a nursing home, also has reserve funds to draw on while it waits for the budget to pass.

Executive Director Joann Gago said she was required to keep reserves, and that she made it a priority after expenses were paid.

“We’re probably good for a bit,” Gago said, “but not an indefinite bit.”

The organization has 350 people in its care, all of whom are on Medicaid or Medicare. Gago said she was still receiving Medicare dollars because it is a federal program, but was working on the assumption that the organization would not receive any Medicaid funding until a new budget passes.

The situation is terrible, she said.

The state budget for fiscal year 2010 was due July 1, but as of the beginning of September, legislators have not come to an agreement on how to balance the large deficit in funding Pennsylvania faces this year because of the recession.

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