November 14, 2019
Federal Government Shutdown Impacting Mass. Nonprofits

John Drew: We're operating on fumes
October 1, 2013 — The partial shutdown of the federal government early today has affected nonprofits across Massachusetts, causing some to cancel programs, halt construction projects, and seek temporary quarters, while sparking concern about staff reductions in others that depend on federal funding.

Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), the city’s principal antipoverty agency, remained open today as it continued to process applications for fuel assistance, but its president, John Drew, said his organization, which gets 75% of its annual $135 million budget from the federal government, is “operating on fumes.”

“We’ll keep the doors open as long as we can,” he said, expressing concern that he could lose significant numbers of his 850 staff and 500 volunteers if ABCD closes.

Last year in the sequestration battle, which phased in $1.2 trillion in federal spending cuts starting last January, Drew said he lost 100 staffers. “When you tell people to go home, they may not come back,” he said.

ABCD also operates Boston’s Head Start program, which provides pre-school programs for 2,300 Boston children, block grants, food pantries, and two high schools, among other programs.

Should ABCD funding stop, Cambridge Community Center, located in the city’s Riverside neighborhood, which has been providing social, cultural, educational, and recreational activities for more than 84 years, would also be impacted, as about 40% of its monthly $30,0000 income relating to child care services funnels through ABCD.

“If ABCD is forced to close, there could be significant delays in payment of vouchers, and in families receiving new vouchers or information on child care services, said Executive Director David Gibbs.

The Cambridge Community Center has six full time and 11 part time employees and an annual budget of about $900,000. Last year it served 160 children in its child care programs and currently provides services to more than 4000 Cambridge and greater Boston residents.

Anne Marie Hunter, director of Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence, based in Boston, said small nonprofits like hers could experience severe cash flow problems if the shutdown continues beyond Friday.

“Those of us who receive funding from the Department of Justice have been told that we won’t be able to draw down grant funds if the government stays closed past this Friday. We are on a reimbursement system – we do the work, then we get paid for the work,” she said.

Events Cancelled, Senior Housing in Jeopardy

Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, based in Stow, a nonprofit that works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announced that the Assabet River, Great Meadows, Monomoy, Nantucket, and Oxbow National Wildlife Refuges will be closed to the public.

In addition, the organization has cancelled all fish and wildlife management activities, scheduled programs, and meetings until federal funding is restored to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Where possible, events will be rescheduled.

Dave Christopolis, executive director of Hilltown Community Development Corporation, based in Chesterfield, said the shutdown will negatively impact HUD-related programs it operates.

“We are hoping to request a drawdown of funds in the form of a requisition to the HOME program for a senior housing development we are currently constructing,” he said. “Most of these programs...require cost reimbursement. It is unclear if our requests for reimbursement will be delayed.

“If they are held up, senior housing won’t be completed, homeless providers will not get their funding, Section 8 subsidies will not be forthcoming ,and block grant funds will not be released, which for us is approved to rehab 22 homes and provide social service support to hundreds of seniors and families of low to moderate income.”

Forced to Vacate Offices

Brian LeMay, executive director of The Bostonian Society, which operates Boston's Old State House, where on July 18, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed, said his nonprofit shut its offices, library, and commercial operations center at 15 State St. that are leased from the National Park Service.

About six members of the organization’s staff are currently operating out of an attic adjacent to the Old State House, which remains open, relying in part on cell phones to maintain contact with others. The Society employs approximately 30 people.

Nancy Owens Hess, executive director of the Elizabeth Stone House in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, which provides shelter, advocacy, and economic development programs to women and families, said 20% of her nonprofit’s budget will be delayed by the shutdown. In addition, plans for a new building will be delayed, she said.

She said that should Congressional later this month fail to act to raise the federal debt limit, financial market turmoil could “have a significant impact” on the organization’s annual appeal drive. The organization, which has an annual budget of $1.8 million, currently employs 17 full time and 13 part time staff.

Pet Chance in Northborough, which uses crowdfunding strategies to raise funds to provide veterinary care for pets, reported that the shutdown is further delaying approval of its 501(c)(3) designation.

Pet Chance CEO Peter Alberti, who reported that his call to the Internal Revenue Service today to inquire on his nonprofit status was met with a “We’re closed” recording, said, “We may not get 501(c)(3) status by end of 2013, which will result in loss of a tax deduction for donors if we cannot get a fiscal sponsor quickly.”

Since it launched in September 2012, Pet Chance, staffed by seven volunteers, has served pet owners in 39 states.

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