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Volunteer program looking at $17,000 cut


June 09, 2010
BERLIN — State budget cuts to the Health and Human Services Department may hit local organizations that rely on volunteers because of a $17,000 cut to a key organization.

The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, which connects volunteers over 55 with organizations that need their experience, expertise and energy, was cut from the latest version of the state budget.

That is a cut that will be felt around the county, according to RSVP director Kathy McKenna, if it doesn't change before the final vote.

"The volunteers are the ones filling the gaps," Mrs. McKenna said, filling the needs state and local agencies can no longer afford to.

The $17,032 cut helped the state close its budget gap, but that money allowed RSVP to leverage much more in federal funds.

RSVP is largely funded through federal grants, Mrs. McKenna said, but those grants require a 30 percent match. A large chunk of that match came from the state, she said, and the organization doesn't have alternatives.

"We probably make between $12,000 and $15,000 in fundraising if we're lucky," she said, between several events they hold every year. They would have to more than double that amount to make up the difference.

They did get a donation of four Red Sox tickets from their insurance agency, Davis and Towle, that they are raffling to help make up the difference, but at most they expect to make an extra $3,600.

"We probably won't have enough to get all the federal funding," Mrs. McKenna said.

Without the funding the organization will have to decide where to make cuts, she said. With only two employees working out of Tri-County CAP's headquarters on Exchange Street there isn't much fat to trim.

"Do I cut hours to make sure we can cover mileage reimbursements or do I cancel volunteer recognition?" she said.

The amount they'll have to cut is just too much, she said. "It'd be like half a salary."

The county commissioners did up their contribution to RSVP by $1,000 this year, she said, to $16,000, for which she was very thankful.

"They recognize what RSVP does through the county," she said.

Local businesses have also been a huge help, she said, but she has trouble going back to them again and again.

"We do it because we have to," she said. "We don't have a choice. We'd be lost without them."

But now, with such a large cut, she's not sure what to do. The federal government might allow RSVP to get a waiver for the 30 percent match, but that's not guaranteed, Mrs. McKenna said. And if RSVP is dropped from the state budget this year it's not likely to find its way back in the future, she said.

She has been trying to explain her predicament to the local delegation in hopes they can address her concern. She said several local representatives, including Senator John Gallus, have responded, but none have given her any indication the money will come back.

In the meantime, she said, she is holding off making any decisions about what she will cut. Until she knows exactly how much the program has lost, she said, she isn't going to look toward the chopping block.

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