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Emotions high as United Way reallocates funding

BURLINGTON, Vt. - The executive director of an organization that provides emergency housing and services to domestic violence survivors in Chittenden County says cuts will need to be made after the United Way of Northwest Vermont chose not to provide funding.

“We are shocked by the @UnitedWayNWVT’s decision to eliminate funding for our shelter, children’s program, and economic/housing stability services. This is an immediate loss of about $100,000 for domestic violence-specific services provided by no one else in Chittenden County,” wrote Steps to End Domestic Violence, formerly Women Helping Battered Women, on Twitter.

Executive Director Kelly Dougherty says that loss accounts for 10% of the organization’s annual budget. She says the United Way has provided funding since the 1980’s.

She says she was told months ago that it was possible Steps wouldn't receive funding because United Way of Northwest Vermont had opened up the process to more applicants.

Last week, Dougherty found out that Steps’ application for $123,000 in funding was not granted. Without that money, starting in July, there will need to be changes.

“We're a pretty lean organization,” said Dougherty. “We don't have a lot of wiggle room in our budget to begin with. This is really a tipping point for us where right now, we're looking at what services we're not going to provide anymore."

Dougherty says she’s especially surprised because housing is a “key strategy” in the United Way of Northwest Vermont’s mission.

The Committee on Temporary Shelter received an amount less than requested.

It also took to Twitter: “We are devastated by the decision of the @UnitedWayNWVT to eliminate their support for our Daystation and Waystation programs in #BTV. These cuts are effective immediately -- and mean a loss nearly $60,000 to support these vital services.”

The CEO of United Way of Northwest Vermont, which covers Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle counties, Jesse Bridges, says for the first time in 10 years, the application process was open to any organization that wanted to apply.

More than 100 programs applied for the $1.5 million in funding. If chosen, the program receives funding for 3 years.

He says the fact that a program was not funded does not diminish its work.

“They are great programs that are doing great work but there's only so much resource to go around,” said Bridges. “It wasn't a cut situation. We weren't taking organizations and saying 'we need to take this much away from any particular organization.'”

Housing programs at CVOEO, Spectrum Youth & Family Services and Pathways Vermont, Inc., among others, received funding.

The money is allocated by the United Way of Northwest Vermont’s board of directors after a recommendation from a team of volunteers known as a community impact team. That process began in the fall of 2015.

Bridges says United Way has seen fewer and fewer donations over the years.

“We have had a number of years where donations have declined,” he said. “We’re looking at a fairly stable year this year but looking forward, we’re concerned about the impacts to charitable giving that are being projected based on a number of changes that are happening on the federal and state level. That’s certainly something we need to be prepared for.”

Dougherty, at Steps to End Domestic Violence, says she posted to Twitter to alert the community her organization has hit a financial hardship.

“Letting our supporters know that this is an issue, we might be able to make up some of that shortfall with donations from the community,” she said. “We felt like it was our responsibility to give the community a heads up that the services that have been available through this organization may not be all there soon and also that we need help."

We reached out to Becky Holt, director of development and communications at COTS, for comment. We have not heard back.

You can donate to Steps here: https://stepsvt.squarespace.com/donate

You can donate to United Way of Northwest Vermont here: https://www.unitedwaynwvt.org/Give


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