Nonprofits shed staff and programs


POSTED: Monday, June 08, 2009

Some of Hawaii's largest nonprofit human services organizations are cutting programs, laying off staff and taking other actions to cope with significant state funding losses, raising concerns about the impact on the needy.

; Child and Family Service, Hawaii's oldest and largest private nonprofit agency, expects a $4 million loss in money from the state in the next fiscal year, said Patti Bates, chief operating officer. The agency's $31 million budget was cut to $29 million this fiscal year, and it will be about $26 million for the next year, she said.

With 25 percent to 40 percent cuts in contracts, the agency's Healthy Start program for at-risk families and other programs for perpetrators, female victims and children affected by domestic violence probably will have to limit whom they are serving, she said.

“;Our biggest concern are the families who aren't getting services,”; Bates said. “;We really feel in this economic time there are going to be more families at risk and we won't be able to serve them, and with all the other resources at other nonprofits reduced as well, there aren't that many services to refer our families to.”;

Kokua Council President Larry Geller, a human services advocate, expressed concern about the pattern of funding cuts and the effects of Gov. Linda Lingle's latest proposals to deal with the state's rising deficit.

Lingle has directed many state workers to take three-day monthly furloughs for two years and is proposing a $42 million reduction (4.3 percent of the total cost) in adult Medicaid benefits.

The governor has said she opposes tax increases, Geller said, “;but taking away 14 percent of a worker's pay (through furloughs) and sticking it in the treasury is very much like a tax.

“;It's not just the state worker; it's multigenerational families that will suffer,”; he said, pointing out many state workers take care of parents or grandparents. “;In Hawaii one state income supports a large number of people.”;

Geller said the furloughs—which take money out of the economy—bother him most “;because of the trickle-through effect in the state's economy. ... Merchants, grocers, restaurants, all are going to be affected.”;

Child and Family Service had about 30 staff layoffs this fiscal year, and Bates anticipates 20 to 30 more in the next fiscal year. “;We're really concerned about employees and where they're going for jobs in this job market,”; she said.

Administrators, including President Howard Garval, are taking furloughs starting next month, with the highest-paid employees taking the most days, she said.

Joe Bloom, Catholic Charities Hawaii program director and social worker, said cuts of up to 30 percent in some programs leave two choices: “;We can either keep the staff that we have and simply cut people's pay, which is not going to happen, or lay people off and provide less and fewer services, the most probable outcome.

“;We're simply going to do the very best we can for as many clients as we can, and we're hoping the generosity of the community through financial donations will keep us afloat. But as people get laid off, they cannot donate.”;

Bloom said Catholic Charities' programs, which serve “;medically fragile infants to seniors and everything in between ... will probably go from 110 percent to 140 percent of what's asked of us.”;

“;What is troublesome to us is the populations we serve,”; he said, such as child victims of sexual abuse, adolescent sex offenders and men and women “;either coming from or on their way to jail or on probation.”;

Two full-time therapists were laid off, he said, pointing out, “;If the most difficult population in terms of behavior problems goes untreated, it is going to show up somewhere.

“;Eventually we're going to have to pay for this as a community, all of us,”; Bloom added, “;and tax increases are one way of doing this. ... We can pay now and try to keep the amount of trauma and abuse from spreading or growing to greater numbers, or we'll have to pay later.”;