Clerical error rectified by Dallas County, but some agencies worry that more cuts are coming
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
Although initial reports of cuts in federal funding for meals programs for people with HIV/AIDS turned out to be a clerical error, at least one Dallas County AIDS service agency still worries that cuts are coming.
Resource Center Dallas Strategic Communications and Programs Manager Rafael McDonnell said, “We’re still trying to assess the numbers and trying to see where we are.”
McDonnell said that the food pantry and meals program are not fully funded through government programs.
The agency also relies on a number of other grants from organizations like Mazon and on canned food drives run by community groups and businesses.
“We go into this budget year with a certain amount of uncertainty,” McDonnell said. “We are hopeful there are no cuts. It’s hard to determine if there will be.”
He added that the center will need all those who have supported its programs in the past to continue to do so into the future.
With federal and state governments slashing their budgets, McDonnell said that money could be cut at any time from the programs.
“Until we see the check in our hands,” they don’t count on the money, he said. “We’re doing the best we can, planning in an uncertain future.”
But the grant that comes through Dallas County has been restored for the immediate future for the Resource Center and AIDS Interfaith Network.
AIN relies on the grant money for a third of its meals program budget.
“The county did respond and did rectify the mistake,” AIN Executive Director Steven Pace said.
AIN has a weekday breakfast and lunch program and provides some weekend meals for persons with HIV. Resource Center Dallas runs a hot lunch program during the week.
Pace said that with grants of this type, there is always a degree of uncertainty. Even though the money has been restored for seven months, Congress can decide to cut funding to any program at any time.
He said it is just something nonprofit organizations that rely on government funding live with.
Because of a clerical mistake, funding for meals programs was moved to food pantry programs for the new fiscal year.
When AIN and RCD received emails confirming state grants that are funneled through Dallas County, the money for meals programs was omitted from the budget.
However, the money did not show up in the RCD grant budget even though that agency runs both meals and food pantry programs.
The state fiscal year begins Sept. 1 and final documentation needed to be back to the county by Aug. 12.
When Dallas County found the error, a new email was sent to the agencies. Pace worried at the time that he was missing the deadline to submit his budgets and documentation, but he has been assured the agency would not be penalized.
He said he promptly adjusted his figures and submitted the necessary paperwork to assure no interruption in funding.
RCD also readjusted its figures and resubmitted the paperwork.
Some years, grants are renewed from previous years. Other years, agencies must rebid to receive their funding. This year, money was renewed for seven months and agencies will have to rebid for the final five months.
Although the state funding year begins Sept. 1, the Ryan White fiscal year begins April 1.
“We appreciate that Dallas County corrected the error so quickly,” Pace said.
Even with lag time in receiving the additional funds, Pace said the meals program will continue uninterrupted, thanks to a recent $25,000 grant from the MAC Cosmetics AIDS fund.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.