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State reduces grants for child services


Less funding for families in need


September 24, 2009
OSSIPEE — Needy children will likely receive less assistance from the Ossipee Children's Fund and other organizations for the next two years due to a reduction in state grant funding. Donations and other grants will be needed to fill the funding gaps, say child advocates impacted by the reduction.

This fiscal year, (July 1 to June 30, 2010), the state Legislature reduced funding to its incentive grant program by 36.5 percent compared to last year.

"That was not something we came up with," said John Harrington of the Department of Health and Human Services. "That was the direction from the state Legislature."

The Department of Health and Human Service's Division for Children, Youth and Families is responsible for distributing the grant funding this year.

Incentive grants are meant to encourage cities, towns, and counties to provide positive activities and after-school programs for children that provide an alternative to out-of-home placement, said Harrington.

In total, the state is budgeting $2.34 million in incentive grants for this year and next year. The state operates on a biennial budget, said Harrington.

The Legislature directed (DCYF) to only fund programs that received grants last year. The amount to each organization was pro-rated. The grant money would likely be mailed in mid to late October pending approval at the governor and council meeting scheduled for Oct. 7.

For the last few years, the Ossipee Children's Fund has received $20,000 in incentive grants to fund childcare, enrichment, recreation, and educational programming. This year, the Children's Fund is receiving $12,376, said Ossipee Children's Fund Treasurer Cecily Clark.

"We're still providing service to all that apply, but just a smaller amount," said Clark. "That makes us very unhappy. We'd like to do more."

The Ossipee Children's Fund covers Ossipee, Effingham, Freedom, and Madison. Money from the Ossipee Children's Fund helps needy families afford activities for their children such as camp, karate lessons, and dance class.

Last year the Ossipee Children's Fund made 282 awards totaling about $87,500, said President Jayne Jarvis.

"Nonprofits are having a difficult time," said Jarvis. "The loss of incentive funds makes a big difference in the number of children we can help and the level of service we can provide."

School's Out!, an after school program for Ossipee children, is receiving about $8,200 or $4,700 less than last year, said Director Jennifer Berkowitz. Last year, the program received $13,000. She had applied for the same amount this year.

Berkowitz and Clark both said their agencies will be chasing grants and seeking donations to make up for the reduction. But Berkowitz is grateful the state decided to fund the same organizations that received money last year.

"They did give us some, which is a lot better than none," said Berkowitz.

The state is also making major changes to the way grants are awarded. In previous years, Carroll County's due date for grant applications was in September. This year, the state set the due date in the spring. Several people said they had to "scramble" to get their applications in on time.

Harrington said each of New Hampshire's 10 counties had a different schedule for grant applications. In the future, the grant application process will be standardized and will follow the state's fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. Standardizing the due date should help organizations that cross county lines, said Harrington.

Another major change is county panels will not be awarding incentive grants in fiscal year 2010-2011, according to a pending rule change called He-C 6353.

Prior to 2009, each county had a selection committee that decided which organizations receive incentive grants. The following people were on Carroll County's selection committee: the county commission members, a state social worker, a local police chief, a local state representative, and a DCYF official.

The proposed rule change would replace county panel system with 12 "community-based" panels. Each community is called a catchment area, which is a region of the state serviced by a particular DHHS district office.

If the rule change passes as proposed, childcare agencies in Ossipee would report to Conway's community panel.

DHH officials would be responsible for picking the panel members in the event there is more than one nominee, according He-C 6353.

The rule change states community panel will have the following make up: A county commissioner, a municipal elected official, a grant writer, a member of a faith based organization, a supervisor from Division of Juvenile Justice Services, a supervisor from DCYF, and someone assigned from DCYC central office.

The amount of money allocated to each catchment area would be determined by a formula. Fifteen percent of the entire incentive fund budget would be equally distributed. The remaining 85 percent would be distributed based on the juvenile population of each catchment area, said Harrington.

The Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules will discuss He-C 6353 during a hearing on Oct. 1.

Other agencies in Carroll County that received incentive funds last year are: Life Bridge, Moultonboro School District, Carroll County Dept. of Corrections, Carroll County Restorative Justice, Open Gym, VNA Hospice, Madison Elementary School, Copper Cannon Camp, Children Unlimited, Appalachian Mountain Teen Project, and the Ossipee Recreation Department.

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