Nonprofit alliance launches urgent fundraising appeal, state asks for patience

Nonprofits that serve people with behavioral and developmental health disorders are begging the state government to release funding increases. They say the delay is now having an impact on their ability to adequately serve their clients.

Some of these suppliers, which are part of the CT Nonprofit Alliance, expressed their concerns at a virtual press conference on Thursday. They said staff shortages result in overwork for those who remain, which in turn affects their ability to provide these services to their clients.

“Although they have secured their core funding, nonprofits have not received the increases allocated to them that are necessary to retain and attract employees and which are necessary to ensure that services are uninterrupted for the people who depend on it ”, President and CEO of CT Nonprofit Alliance. says Gian-Carl Casa.

The Office of State Policy and Management and the Governor’s Office on Thursday sent Casa a letter providing an update on the progress of the distribution of these funds and a timeline to inform private providers of their increases. rates and their payment schedules. The letter also provided information on the COVID-19 test materials available to nonprofits and other employers.

In June, Governor Ned Lamont signed a two-year budget, which his office said at the time supported not-for-profit health and social service providers with $ 50 million in surplus funds. , as well as an additional $ 30 million in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 which will be matched with $ 30 million in federal funds.

Casa said members of the organization were delighted to learn that the state legislature has approved a budget that resolves more than a decade of underfunding.

Casa said part of the state funding that has yet to be released is $ 62 million for providers in the state’s development services department – money for employee salaries, pensions. and other benefits under the state’s settlement with Union 1199 – as well as $ 23 million for private providers. Not all DDS and private providers are members of the Alliance, but Casa said there are 180 providers that are.

State officials say the legislature allocated $ 38.15 million for cost-of-living adjustments for private providers. Each state agency must analyze its accounts because the legislation has not set a specific percentage increase in COLA. State officials were also to ensure that they review funding allocations against federal government requirements – due to funding under the US bailout – and changes to Medicaid.

Upon completion of all reviews, OPM will apply a COLA of approximately 4% to qualifying agencies and vendors. Private providers who serve public programs will learn how much they will receive by mid-October, the letter said.

“We appreciate the continued dedication of our nonprofit community throughout the pandemic and the essential services they provide to so many vulnerable residents across Connecticut. The administration remains committed to equitably and expeditiously implementing many of the policy changes and investments in social services adopted during the legislative session, including the Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) intended to strengthen and stabilize the nonprofit workforce, ”the letter reads.

Tracey Walker, CEO of Journey Found, Inc. in Manchester, said his agency serves people with intellectual disabilities. She said she could not come to an agreement with the union of that organization because she did not have the final figures for retirement and health care to include in the union package.

“My people deserve this money,” Walker said. “They earned this money.

Senator Catherine Osten, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, said Thursday that she had been in contact with both Casa and OPM officials, adding that she understood the benefits component was complicated . However, she added, it is time to hand the money back to the workers.

“I just think we need to get the dollars out because the whole point has always been to make sure that we are providing the resources to this group of people who have been running out of money for a long time and in many cases the workers were on hard times. food stamps. , or get HUSKY for health care, ”Osten said. “It’s almost October, so we really need to shake things up. ”

Heather Gates, president and CEO of Community Health Resources – which serves 26,000 children and families each year statewide – said the organization has 120 full-time and part-time vacancies for a staff of more than 900. Managers cover third shifts in residential programs, she said.

There are 44 vacant clinician positions, which means clinicians have a workload of 80 to 100 people, she said. Managers cover third shifts in residential programs, she said.

“These are 3,520 children, families and adults who, over the past three months, have not been able to access the necessary and life-saving behavioral health care in some cases. We desperately need the funding that has been earmarked, ”said Gates.

But the delay in securing the funding means that salary increases are not reaching employees, but nonprofits also have to worry about funding other expenses, including rent, equipment and insurance. , said Casa.

Kristie Scott, CEO of Perception Programs Inc. in Willimantic, said employees worked multiple times, wore masks and were at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

“They keep coming to work, time and time again,” Scott said.

She said an employee left Perception Programs for a higher paying job as a supervisor at McDonald’s.

“They didn’t want to, but it was a choice they had to make as we continue to not be able to donate COLA,” Scott said.

She added that she also had 45 open positions out of a total workforce of 363. “That’s 13% of my workforce.”

Walker said Journey Found serves clients who need consistency and connection with people they know, but the job market makes that difficult.

“It’s not a situation that we like, but this is where we are at,” Walker said.

Walker said she was concerned union workers could strike, but Gates said whatever the union problem is, the funding should be released.

“It’s really important that every vendor under contract with the state of Connecticut needs this money right now,” Gates said.

Casa said the state probably did not release the money because it wanted to be careful in its calculations to ensure there were no mistakes, but the budget situation had frustrated the government. non-profit staff.

“I would say this is a crisis for nonprofits right now or at least a near-crisis and should be treated as such,” Casa said.

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