Elkhart United Way funding cuts hit agencies hard

By: Ryan Famuliner Email
By: Ryan Famuliner Email

Elkhart County social service agencies and the hundreds they help got bad news this week, amid tough economic times.

The United Way of Elkhart County announced it is cutting funding to more than 20 agencies.

It’s a 30% cut across the board, for the months of January and February, and the cuts could go even deeper.

The United Way isn't sure how much money it'll raise this year, but it looks like it will be much less than last year.

The 30% cuts mean tens of thousands of dollars less for organizations like Family Services of Elkhart County.

"Even though we prepared for it, we have places like the women’s shelter. The cuts are just killing us on so many levels, with it being such a large program," said Cyneatha Millsaps, Executive Director of Family Services.

The organization provides services to families in difficult transition periods, but Millsaps says this is just one of many budget hits they've seen.

"For the course of this year we've had federal cuts, state cuts, county cuts, and then the fact that the private donor is just non-existent anymore," Millings said.

Organizations have no choice but to trim.

"You sit down and say 'okay, we've done a lot of things that have been helpful and nice to do, but what do we have to do to get through a time like this?'" said Jerry Quatman, President of the United Way of Elkhart County.

It's tough to get by, as organizations are getting hit on both sides.

"When you have these types of economic situations, service demands always go up. Then, there's less money to do things with. Worst case scenario, we'll have to turn children away," said Tami Maier, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters. She says United Way’s funding makes up 18% of their budget.

Right now the United Way has raised roughly $1.4 million in their capital campaign. That’s compared to around $2.5 they raised last year. However, Quatman points out that the numbers aren’t comparable yet, because many of the major donors have not had their fund drives yet.

The United Way will have to make some even tougher decisions after February, when they have a better feel for how much money they have raised.

"We’re going to look at the critical programs that we have, and we're going to fund those, and then we're going to see where that leaves us," Quatman said.

He anticipates many organizations may see cuts, and some are preparing to go beyond the 30%.

"I’m anticipating in our agency that our cuts will go deeper than that," Maier said.

So the organizations are left with no other choice but to do the best with what they have.

"Work smarter, work harder and just take faith that things are going to be better," Quatman said.

Quatman says he’s impressed by those who've given to their fund drive. He says many were having tough times themselves but still thought it was important to donate.

Meanwhile, the cuts the organizations have been making so far vary.

Some are having to cut services, while others are trying to keep the services intact, but may have to put caps on the amount of people they can help.

Many organizations are also cutting staff.

To visit the United Way’s website, follow the link below.

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