With a stand-off in Washington, local governments and non-profits are managing both short-term cuts while calculating how much money an extended sequester would cost them.
In Miami-Dade, estimates of modest spending cuts for this year are followed by larger ones next year. A drug-treatment program losing $31,000 in the budget year that ends in October is set to lose $116,000 the following year.
An extended rollback in federal dollars also will give agencies fewer options beyond their initial cost-saving cuts. The local organization in Miami-Dade charged with distributing federal dollars earmarked for elderly care initially thought it would have to cut its meals budget by about $1 million this year. But in recent weeks, staff found a way to restore about $250,000 after pulling back grants from providers that ultimately couldn’t produce the meals as promised, said Max Rothman, president of the Alliance for Aging.
Miami-Dade estimated its $89,000 cuts from the Alliance, which administers federal funds for Florida, would amount to a reduction of about 15,000 meals served at senior centers and other gathering places and about 1,800 meals delivered to seniors’ homes. But Rothman said the county was notified last week that roughly half of the money will be restored for Miami-Dade.
Even with the reductions being smaller than anticipated, Rothman said the agencies that rely on Alliance dollars to cover food costs have few options but to rollback service. “When something like this happens and you’re not particularly prepared for it,’’ he said, “you can’t make it up.”
Jewish Community Services lost about $60,000 in Alliance dollars, but president Fred Stock said he was able to raise that much from private donors to fill the gap. But he called that a temporary fix. “You have to understand something: I have to cover that every year,’’ he said.
For Catholic Charities, the loss of $45,000 from the Alliance meant a 5 percent cut for the non-profit’s $800,000 food budget for senior citizens. When she first saw the number in early March, Taveras said she thought they could cutback staff hours or meals throughout the organization’s eight locations where it distributes hot lunches on weekdays to seniors. Taveras said she quickly realized she’d have to give up the location seen as the least essential, and Saint Monica took the hit.
Each day, about 30 people from the Saint Monica tower on the 3400 block of NW 189th Street come down to the dining hall for a meal. Taveras said most are independent enough to cook for themselves in their apartments, but the free lunch gave them an excuse to socialize and helped stretch their grocery budgets.
When she told the residents of the closing, scheduled for Friday, Taveras said they took the news better than she did.
“I was devastated,’’ she said. “They were sad. But they understand is what is going on with the economy, and all of that stuff. They said, ‘We appreciate the services for the time that you gave us.’’’