Issues & Ideas

Budget cuts: Where the hurt is

Dylan Delicat, 10, listens while leaning against the scroll of his cello during class. The South Florida Youth Symphony program faces cuts.
Dylan Delicat, 10, listens while leaning against the scroll of his cello during class. The South Florida Youth Symphony program faces cuts. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Hundreds of community-based programs are feeling the hangover from Miami-Dade Commission budget cuts.

Organizations like Early Risers After School Care, which takes care of kids ages 5 to 11 so their parents can earn a living during the day.

And We Count!, which helps match day laborers, many of them immigrants, with prospective employers.

And Intergenerational Project, which helps low-income grandparents who, through circumstances beyond their control, are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren.

Painful though they may be, the cuts to social programs have been easier to implement than reductions in salary to the county's unionized workers. Those workers have rights under their contracts. The county has given the unions the choice of accepting pay cuts or job reductions. The unions are mulling the choice.

As they mull, the meter runs. Each week that passes without cuts in employee pay, the county's $444 million budget deficit grows by $4 million, Miami-Dade administrators say.

Below you'll find videos on the organizations that are soldiering on despite the budget cuts.

Music instruction

Organization: South Florida Youth Symphony.

Function: The 45-year-old organization offers classical music instruction primarily to youth in the North Miami-Dade area.

Current allocation: $12,750, a 30 percent cut.

Cuts: The organization currently serves about 190 students. Two directors were laid off and other instructors are working at half their pay. For more information, call 305-238-2729.

Quote: "If the program didn't exist here in the north area, these students wouldn't have a chance of being in a cultural arts program ... This is a life-changing experience," said Marjorie Gould Hahn, executive director.

Early Risers after school program

Organization: Dominican American National Foundation.

Function: The 20-year-old organization offers after-school programs for disadvantaged youth ages 5 to 11 in Miami's Allapattah neighborhood.

Current allocation: $106,000, a 27 percent cut.

Cuts: The Early Risers program was forced to drop enrollment by nearly half -- from 65 to 35. For more information, call 305-637-8337.

Quote: "These cuts mean we will be serving less children and that will affect the well-being of many families in this area," said Radames Peguero, executive director.

Environmental education

Organization: Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center.

Function: The organization offers environmental education awareness and field trips to Crandon Park on Key Biscayne.

Current allocation: $35,000, a 30 percent cut.

Cuts: The 25-year-old organization has been forced to drop the number of children who can be bused in for field trips. Approximately 15,000 students have participated in the program annually in previous years. For more information, call 305-361-6767, ext. 111.

Quote: "It's going to significantly reduce the number of children who can come visit," said Theodora Long, executive director.

Opa-locka medical outreach

Organization: North Miami Beach Medical Center Inc.

Function: A mobile medical unit provides vital medical services to low-income families and individuals with no health insurance in Opa-locka.

Current allocation: $34,000.

Cuts: The 6-year-old program, which provides about 3,000 patient visits per year, is expecting a reduction in funding by as much as 30 percent. Officials are still awaiting confirmation from the county on the proposed cuts. A loss in funds will severely hamper the number of patients the mobile unit can serve. The agency accepts financial contributions from private donors and volunteers. For more information, call 786-888-8800.

Quote: "If we get any cuts, it will be a hardship for us to continue to provide services to the amount of people we currently do," said Dr. Eileen Ramsaran, medical director.

Intergenerational project

Organization: Urgent Inc.

Function: The 8-year-old program offers assistance to grandparents in Miami's Overtown and Liberty City neighborhoods who are raising their grandchildren.

Current allocation: $5,900 -- a 40 percent cut.

Cuts: The organization has reduced the number of families it can help. It serves about 100 low-income families. Assistance includes parenting workshops, referrals for food and clothing, as well as legal assistance and counseling. For more information, call 305-576-3084.

Quote: "We are now limited to serve these grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, and it puts more stress on their families with the incomes they have. These people really rely on our services. It helps get them through life," said Linda Jones, case manager.