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County Programs Receive Word On Funding For 2016

The Alachua County Commission meeting on Tuesday.
The Alachua County Commission meeting on Tuesday.

The Alachua County Commission approved plans for the distribution of funds for the 2016 fiscal year on Tuesday, impacting dozens of local nonprofit agencies.

Nearly $2 million was recommended by the Community Agency Partnership Program (CAPP), a yearly funding process that reduces the impact of poverty among county residents, and Choices, which provides health care to the uninsured in the county.

Gainesville’s Peaceful Paths is among the 26 agencies that will receive funding. The shelter and youth-services center will receive $140,000 from the county after CAPP's recommendations, which is the second-highest sum awarded to any applicant.  The Acorn Clinic, which provides medical care to low-income residents in North Central Florida, will receive $169,000, the largest sum approved by the county commission.

Originally, the CAPP board proposed giving Peaceful Paths more than $150,000. But the commission voted to give a portion of those funds to Planned Parenthood and Friends of the Micanopy Library.

“(Tuesday) we saw the unfortunate way the process doesn’t work,” Peaceful Paths Executive Director Theresa Beachy said. “Any time the board can be overruled, the commission is setting them up for failure.”

Beachy said the other organizations are “great” and “deserving of any money they received,” but she had an issue with the environment created at the meeting because of the county commission's ability to overule the CAPP board's recommendations based on lobbying efforts of individual agencies.

“This process makes the meetings become competitive,” Beachy said. “Which isn’t how they should be.”

Another agency disappointed by the process was Gainesville’s Pace Center for Girls. After the CAPP board recommended giving Pace $34,000, the commission voted to reallocate $4,500 of those funds to the Reichert House after-school program. Pace Executive Director Natalya Bannister said the reallocation was a major setback.

“That $34,000 was...how much we needed to fund a full-time position for the Spirited Girls program, which provides career guidance, sexual education and critical programs to the girls who need it most in our community,” Bannister said. “By cutting it…we are affecting the quality of that program significantly.”

Five programs that applied for funds ultimately received nothing, leaving some in doubt of their future.

After the county gave Gainesville's St. Francis House more than $80,000 last year, the homeless shelter received more than $23,000 from CAPP for food distribution only. No money was granted for housing. Executive Director Kent Vann said the lack of support is making it difficult to continue to run the shelter.

“I’m running a large agency with low funding, trying to have people to fill more than one role,” Vann said. “That’s the struggles I’m having.”

Complaints weren’t limited to the CAPP decision.

Four of the 13 applicants to the Choices program were denied completely. Among them was the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida. CEO Karen Basha Egozi said failing to receive any funds could negatively alter the direction of the organization.

“We’re still working to figure out what to do,” she said. “We’ll see drastic changes. We may have to freeze services or cut back on services. We’re really disappointed.”

Robert Hutchinson was one of five county commissioners involved in Tuesday’s decisions. He said the commission tried its best to put the benefits of the county first, but there aren’t enough funds to please everyone.

“It’s clear that there’s more demand out there than we have money for,” Hutchinson said.

Connor is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.