Nine local agencies prepare for budget cuts from federal government

Local shelters and organizations losing funds

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Nine local agencies received news leaders say they didn't want to hear. They were notified their federal funding from the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be completely cut. The agencies are now looking at a combined total of a $500,000 budget gap.

"It's heartbreaking honestly for so many." Loaves and Fishes Executive Director Tina Postel said.

Postel says Loaves and Fishes is looking at about a $35,000 cut. The Executive Director says that money is used to purchase special food for people who suffer from cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure or other diseases.

"Now without that funding many of the people who shop our pantries have to shop based on the food that gets donated and often the food we receive here at our pantries is filled with sugar and salt and fat and things that could further jeopardize their ongoing health issues,"  Postel said.

The reason for the funding loss is Mecklenburg County didn't meet guidelines. The requirement is counties receive the federal funds if they have a 6.5 percent unemployment rate or higher or a 17.3 percent poverty rate. Mecklenburg County's unemployment rate is at about 4 percent and the poverty rate is 12.3 percent.  Some would say not being able to get the funding is a good thing, but one county leader disagrees.

"I guess I don't look at it that way," Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham said. "As long as we have people who are on the street and children who don't have food, we are not in a good place."

The Men's Shelter of Charlotte will lose $88,000. About 2,000 men depend on the shelter each year. Leaders call the cut startling and say the money will be missed.

"It's really for our emergency shelter. It's really for the food and the supplies that go along in our kitchen," Men's Shelter of Charlotte Director of Philanthropy Randall Hitt said.

The local agencies are now banding together to come up with options to fill their budget gaps. There are about 130,000 people in Mecklenburg County who still live in poverty and need the services the agencies impacted provide. The agencies will be going to their boards to come up with a game plan.

"How do we increase our strategic fundraising? What are the other opportunities out there? How can we continue to advocate with our elected officials about the importance of what that means for our county?" Hitt said.

The Men's Shelter of Charlotte's new budget cycle starts July 1.  Leaders there don't have much time to come up with a solution to make up for the $88,000 that will not appear in their budget.

"You have to figure out how can you absorb. How can you tighten up in certain areas of your budget, but not compromise the services that we provide in a critical time when demand is very high," Hitt said.

Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio is weighing in on the cuts. We asked if the county would step in. The County Manager provided this statement.

"We are aware of the reductions and will be working with our partners to determine the extent of the impact." County Manager Dena Diorio said.

Besides Loaves and Fishes and The Men's Shelter of Charlotte - the other agencies impacted are Safe Alliance, Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, The Relatives, Crisis Assistance Ministry, Urban Ministry Center, The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte, and United Way of Central Carolinas.

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