Courage Connection ‘en estado de crisis’

Courage Connection ‘en estado de crisis’

Lunes, 04/24/2017 – 4:00pm | Debra Pressey

CHAMPAIGN — Courage Connection, a Champaign agency that helps victims of domestic violence and the homeless, says it’s on the brink of closing over a budget crisis.

And this definitely isn’t a budget crisis the agency caused itself, Courage Connection Executive Director Isak Griffiths said.

“To be clear, the reason we’re in this situation is because of the state,” she said.

The agency is appealing to the community with an emergency fund drive to keep its doors open and help flowing to 60 people in residential programs and some 20-50 more people in other programs.

Griffiths said Courage Connection’s budget crisis has been brewing due to a loss of federal and state money, but mostly over nonpayment of state funds for services provided under contract.

“We signed our contract with the state in good faith. But in order to provide those services, we have to continue paying bills for operation, including payroll and unemployment taxes to the state, even though the state is not paying the agency to provide those services,” she said.

The state requires agencies to spend the grant money under contract, then apply for reimbursement, Griffiths said. So Courage Connection has spent more than $250,000, for which it’s still waiting on reimbursement. By June 30, the agency will be waiting on $350,000 from the state, she said.

Plus, she said, the agency unexpectedly lost $100,000 in federal money last year as the Department of Housing and Urban Development shifted priorities away from transitional housing. More federal funding cuts are expected for this year.

As the budget situation has worsened over the past two years, Courage Connection has reduced spending, cut staff and implemented a hiring freeze, and its managers have taken furloughs, Griffiths said.

“We’re definitely in crisis mode,” she said.

She and the staff have tried to be optimistic, Griffiths said, “but optimism and efficiency are no longer enough.”

For now, the agency is living paycheck-to-paycheck. It’s received a $100,000 advance from Busey Bank, and “we know we’re going to be able to make payroll this week,” Griffiths said.Courage Connection provides a domestic violence shelter, transitional housing for single women and women with children and several other support services and programs.

Before entering transitional housing with Courage Connection, 55 percent of those served were staying temporarily with friends or family and 18 percent were staying in places unintended for habitation, the agency said. After staying in transitional housing, 86 percent went into permanent housing and 88 percent had new or increased income.

The agency is asking the public to consider making a donation online at courageconnection.org

Other ways to get involved are to contact legislators and the governor to urge them to resolve the budget impasse, rally friends and other organizations to collect donations and host third-party fund-raising events, the agency suggested.

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