Meals on Wheels and Other Services Express Concern about Cuts from City Funding

Tuesday, April 16, 2019, 8:46 am
By: 
Noa Kuszai

Above: Homes in the Avondale Square project, to which a majority of the HUD funding is expected to go.

According to the social service agencies whose representatives spoke at the City Council meeting on April 9, no longer receiving City-based funding from East Lansing may inhibit their programs.

Council is scheduled to take up the issue again tonight at its 5 p.m. budget work session.

As previously reported by ELi, the City has been working on eliminating funding to local social service agencies from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money that is received annually by East Lansing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

During the public comments portion of the April 9 Council meeting, Carl Buondono, the Nutrition Director of the Tri-County Office on Aging, and Kathy Kelly, the Director of Child Abuse Prevention Services, spoke to Council about the impacts anticipated on their ability to provide services.

Buondono said he recognized the importance of budgeting, however, he said, the “impact that the dollars that the City of East Lansing has contributed in the past is pretty significant to the Meals on Wheels program,” which his agency administers.

He asked the City Council for $3,200 in order to continue adequately servicing the 50 people, mostly over the age of 60, who live within East Lansing and need his organization’s help. Along with delivering meals, Meals on Wheels volunteers also perform wellness checks.

Kelly also spoke of the importance of maintaining funding from the City. According to Kelly, her organization provides, through the Family Growth Center, “respite drop-in childcare for families that don’t have those resources available to them.”

Molly Cook, the Development Director of Haven House, the area’s only homeless shelter for families, spoke to ELi by email about that group’s situation. According to Cook, Haven House has been preparing for the end of City-based funding.

“We are anticipating and planning for the elimination of funds from the City of East Lansing,” Cook said. “The loss of funds from the City has required careful strategizing to ensure that there are no interruptions to our shelter or programs.”

She explained that this careful planning is in the hopes of continuing to be able to help all families in need. Haven House provided emergency housing to 489 individuals and 44 families in 2018.

At the Council meeting last week, Amy Schlushler-Schmitt, East Lansing’s Community Development and Engagement Manager, reminded Council members they and staff had decided the CDBG funding should go to public infrastructure.

“The current budget, developed by staff, suggests spending on activities this year primarily in the areas of public infrastructure only,” Schlushler-Schmitt said at the City Council meeting.

As ELi has reported, there is one local non-profit agency slated to still obtain funding. That’s the Capital Area Housing Partnership, on whose board Mayor Mark Meadows sits. The proposed budget shows $10,000 for that group.

The proposed budget also shows $100,000 for sidewalk improvements in the Bailey Neighorhood (where Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann lives), and $274,230 directed at repaying costs for the Avondale Square project.

The City’s budget work sessions are open to the public, and public comment is invited at the end. This evening’s session will start at 5 p.m. in Conference Room A of City Hall, on the second floor near the City Manager’s office. (See the agenda here.)

The Council will also hold two more public hearings on the CDBG funding, including one on April 23 and one on May 7. Email can be sent to Council at council@cityofeastlansing.com.

 

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