MARSHALL - A cut in state funding has left Women's Rural Advocacy Programs (WRAP) facing an uncertain future and poses a threat to the group's ability to provide services for people suffering from violence and abuse.
According to WRAP, because of a change in its grant award process from set allocation dollar amounts, the state's Office of Justice Program will allocate about $1.5 million less in FY13 than in FY12. OJP had $30.7 million to grant out to more than 150 organizations that applied for a total of nearly $40 million in funding, including requests from 12 new agencies. Of the 151 applications, 126 were funded.
For WRAP, it means a 45 percent cut in funding for FY13 and the loss of one of its four employees come Oct. 1.
"The No. 1 reason we went through this process is that we had $1.5 million less to work with," said OJP Assistant Director Trisha Hummel. "We simply could not fund everyone at the same level as they had been funded."
WRAP is one of a number of Minnesota agencies that provide crime victim services that will be dealing with cuts. Another local group, New Horizons Crisis Center in Marshall, will decrease its workforce by 25 percent because of OJP cuts that amount to more than $83,000. The cuts will hit many programs in southern Minnesota that deal with sexual assault, abused children and general crime victim service programs.
"It's my understanding they're trying to have a one-stop shop in these rural areas and that doesn't work," said WRAP Director Karen Brady. "Back in the '90s it was like they wanted to short-change us out here. I kept saying, 'You can't do that, what about us rural people? You don't have a clue to the isolation these women live in.' I've heard other areas throughout the state received more monies; why are they receiving more money? I don't get it."
WRAP, which serves under the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women umbrella and provides services for women and their children victimized by domestic violence, will receive $123,000 to continue providing services in Lincoln, Lyon, Redwood and Yellow Medicine counties - $8,000 for hotel/motel safehomes and $115,000 for domestic violence services.
"We knew going into this funding cycle (OJP) had $1.5 million less in state funds to distribute and there was some shifting to the funding process which would mean there would be more programs asking for funding, so we knew there would be some cuts in funding," said Liz Richards, executive director of the MCBW, which has 84 member programs across Minnesota. "But I don't think anyone anticipated the cuts to be so deep. It's a pretty big shock to lose almost half your funding from the state."
Richards said the goal of groups in outstate Minnesota now must shift to how they will continue to provide the highest level of services possible with fewer resources. She said in rural Minnesota, finding alternative sources of funding is more of a challenge than it is for organizations that serve more populated areas.
"It's not like, 'Let's run here to generate income,'" she said. "I think a struggle that all non-profits have in greater Minnesota is how do they find diversified funding. And the more we have to do to generate income, it takes away the ability to provide direct services. We have programs already functioning on a bare-bones budget."
The southern tier of Minnesota agencies that provide these types of services will be hit especially hard, Richards said, because in OJP's analysis, those agencies have been receiving a disproportionate amount of funding compared to others around the state. The result, because of that determination, will be a reallocation of funding to other areas of the state.
"If you look across the southern part of the state, two programs lost all of their funding," Richards said. "One in the southeast corner of the state received a cut of more than 40 percent. Almost every program in southern Minnesota received a cut, many quite substantial. The real problem is there isn't enough money to provide adequate funding, so tough decisions are being made."
One agency in southern Minnesota, Fillmore Family Resources Inc. in Rochester, is closing in November and is already making plans to refer clients to other organizations.
Richards isn't aware of any of the organizations in southern Minnesota providing less than adequate services to their clients and is concerned that if those groups are indeed providing valuable services to a large number of people, what will happen to those who have come to rely on those services.
"It's not like New Horizons or WRAP lost funding and someone else can pick them up; that's not happening," Richards said. "They will have to cut down whatever overhead they can. In those rural areas of the state, they have to cover large distances."
Hummel disputes the notion that it's just rural Minnesota taking the hit but wouldn't comment on details about specific cuts because not all details are finalized yet. She said those details will be available in about 30 days, at which time people can see where all the cuts have been made. She did acknowledge that part of the reason southern Minnesota programs are absorbing so many cuts was so northern Minnesota programs could get additional dollars.
Hummel said the bottom line to the cuts is that OJP has received less money from the state Legislature.
"Right now for this year, until October 1st, we're OK, but the worry comes after October 1st," said Brady. "I don't know what we're gonna do. We can't charge for services because we're a non-profit. We're all hoping for someone to win a lottery and say, 'Let's help these guys out.'"