Wednesday, January 13, 2010

THe Funding Roller Coaster

I will admit it. We took a ride. Our organization took a ride on the funding roller coaster in 2009. We were elated in December 2008 to learn that we were selected to provide major home repairs for low-income seniors as a part of Federal Home Loan Bank’s Community Investment Program. An unprecedented $1 million dollar grant was initiated in May and has been steadily helping seniors who were previously hard for our organization to serve due to the deteriorated condition of their homes. New roofs installed; systems completely replaced; lives changed. It has been an exciting program to say the least.

Now we have learned that funds for this program have been redirected in 2010 toward the home foreclosure crisis. Rehabilitating seniors’ homes is now lower on FHLB’s funding list of priorities than supporting transitioning foreclosed homes into affordable housing units. Ouch! We are all aware of the foreclosure crisis—millions of homes being left for vacant because the house payments cannot be made. But most of our seniors own their homes and actually have them paid for. Our seniors are not necessarily as at risk for foreclosure as others may be. But they are at risk for losing their independence because their homes have deteriorated to the point that they are not livable.

Obviously we have our work cut out for us on the advocacy front to help funding entities like FHLB understand the devastating effects of their priority shifts on our senior population and their communities. Why does it seem that to help with an emerging economic issue that often our senior population is placed on the back burner?

The question that I ask myself is “should we have gotten on this roller coaster to begin with?” Expanding is so much easier than contracting, isn’t it? Do we gain more than we lose by entering into these grant situations that we know may only last one year?

YES! I believe that we have a responsibility to help our seniors in need, even if it means only a limited number of seniors can receive such assistance for a short period of time—in this case one year. Yes, it hurts to see our seniors’ needs go unmet and we will do everything we can to ensure that staff members affected by this loss of funding are not left in the unemployment line when all is said and done. But to never attempt to perform these services because of the potential risk that funding will go away in subsequent years would be foolish. If our organization avoided funding that wasn’t promised for more than one year, we would have only a handful of funders and help a small fraction of the seniors we currently support.

I also believe that this may not be the end of this relationship. Our mandate to advocate for these seniors will force us to remain in conversation with FHLB and other funding entities until our seniors’ voices are heard. Because a relationship of trust and high performance has been established, future doors may open (and I am convinced that they will).

So for now I invite you on the roller coaster with me. Know that our staff and board leadership take these decisions very seriously and that many meetings and painstaking conversations took place before entering into this situation and will take place before entering into similar situations. But I am proud to tell you that we made a tremendous impact for the seniors we could serve and we will continue to fight for those who are still in need. I welcome your feedback and dialog about this roller coaster.

Yours in service,
Jeffrey M. Smythe
Executive Director

No comments: