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United Way offers increase, cuts to agencies

United Way of Central Carolinas approved 2013-14 allocations Thursday, giving increases to 26 charities and decreases for 18 that had programs out of step with the agency’s focus.

In all, the agency gave out $16.5 million in donor dollars to 84 partner charities, including an estimated $1 million taken from a reserve fund set up for emergencies. It’s the third year in a row the agency has taken money from reserves, as it deals with the impact of the economic downturn.

Agency officials said the reserve fund has about $5 million in it.

In announcing the cuts to some programs, United Way was quick to point out that programs getting less money were not unworthy of support.

Instead, they either couldn’t show expected results or they weren’t aligned with United Way’s key focus areas: children and youth; health and mental health and housing and stability.

In a few cases, the programs that lost support were found to be duplications of programs offered by the government or other agencies.

Among those getting cuts: Charlotte’s American Red Cross; Arc of Mecklenburg County; Boy Scouts of Central NC (based in Albemarle); Boy Scouts Piedmont Council (in Gastonia); Habitat for Humanity Cabarrus; Legal Aid of NC; and the Urban League of Central Carolinas.

Some lost as little as 1 percent of their United Way money.

The Arc of Mecklenburg County, which works with the disabled, released a statement noting its cut of $52,661 amounted to 20 percent of the charity’s annual United Way allocation, and it would force the Arc’s board to set a new course in the coming year.

“This level of decrease in dollars is devastating for our small agency and consequently ends up hurting Mecklenburg County citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities the most,” the statement said. “One thing is certain; change is inevitable for the Arc of Mecklenburg County. Now more than ever we need community support.”

Arc officials went a step further by asking its supporters to become involved in United Way’s money allocation process, so that they might have a say on behalf of the charity in future budgeting decisions.

One reason the Arc received a cut is a new United Way policy that says a charity can rely on United Way for no more than 40 percent of its money. The Arc relies on United Way for 67 percent of its money, officials said.

United Way officials said they met with charities hardest hit by cuts to help them understand the reasons and set a plan toward improved funding in the future.

“We had to make tough decisions, but that’s what our donors require of us,” said Marty O’Gorman, chair of the Community Investment Council for United Way.

“We received $1.2 million in funding requests that we could not meet. Based on funding criteria approved by the board, our volunteers focused on programs with the strongest results in serving at-risk and low-income individuals.”

Of the 26 nonprofits getting more money, NC MedAssist got the largest increase (up $59,000 to $390,000) for its Community Free Pharmacy. The program fills the gap created by a Medicaid funding shortfall.

The Mental Health Association of Central Carolinas got an additional $43,218 to expand suicide prevention and increase public safety through mental health training.

Charlotte Family Housing will receive an additional $30,000 to expand transitional housing for homeless families, which have been on the rise in Charlotte the past three years.

In all, the agency will get $300,000 from United Way next year.

“Obviously in the face of scarce resources, we appreciate and sympathize with the United Way in their willingness to make tough decisions and set community priorities toward working homeless families,” said Darren Ash of Charlotte Family Housing.

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