Area LGBT centers struggle to close funding gaps
Even though the economy continues to show signs of improvements, LGBT centers across the region remain particularly vulnerable to funding cuts.
The foundation that had sustained Hudson Pride Connections Center’s Youth Connect program cut 85 percent of its funding - or $55,250. A $14,000 bridge loan from the foundation and the $10,000 Jersey City Councilmember Steve Fulop raised through local donors will allow the program, which offers a variety of direct services to more than 300 LGBT youth between the ages of 13 and 19 from Hudson County and across Northern New Jersey each year, to continue uninterrupted through October.
Nancy Caamano, executive director of Hudson Pride Connections Center, told EDGE during an interview in Jersey City earlier this week this money is simply a drop in the bucket.
"Now we really need the community to respond to the need to have this program," she said.
A combination of local, county and private funds contribute to Hudson Pride Connections Center’s $285,000 annual budget. The organization has two full-time staffers and 15 part-time employees. Dozens of volunteers also donate their time Hudson Pride Connections Center, but diversifying its donor base and enhancing its profile within Jersey City and Hudson County remain ongoing challenges.
"We need more involvement in the work that we are doing," said Caamano. "I want people to see the Center as a home for them here in Jersey City so they don’t have to across the river to where they work."
Across the Hudson River, the Queens Pride House lost more than $80,000 in grant money because state lawmakers and Gov. David Paterson did not agree upon a budget until more than four months after the April 1 deadline.
The Jackson Heights organization is one of more than 50 organizations the state funds through the LGBT Health and Human Services Network. Groups must spend their grant money first; and the state is contractually obligated to reimburse them. Paterson’s vetoes of appropriations bills the lawmakers passed during the budget stalemate, however, left these groups holding the bag.
"When the governor vetoed the funding, it had nothing to do with the merits of the funding," noted Pauline Park, president of the Queens Pride House’s Board of Directors. "The effect was dozens of LGBT organizations throughout the state were put in jeopardy."
Queens Pride House has laid-off half of its staff, curtailed its operating hours and slashed expenditures to close this funding gap. But the only way Queens Pride House and other organizations in the LGBT Health and Human Services Network could possibly recoup their losses is if Albany lawmakers pass a new appropriations bill, which is extremely unlikely.
"We are in a very difficult situation," said Park.
City Councilmember Julissa Ferreras [D-Corona] secured a $5,000 grant for the Queens Pride House. Board members are scheduled to meet with City Councilmember Daniel Dromm [D-Jackson Heights] and his staff on Aug. 26, and they continue to lobby members of the City Council’s LGBT Caucus and members of the Queens delegation to secure additional funding to get the organization through the fiscal year.
"If we don’t get a significant increase in support from various sources -- including foundations, the city, the state and LGBT community members -- by next spring, there’s a very real possibility that we may have to close our doors, which would be a huge tragedy for the LGBT community in Queens," said Park.
Queens Pride House and Hudson Pride Connections are not the only LGBT centers and organizations that continue to face funding cuts. The Bay Area Reporter noted in June San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget eliminated funding for the city’s LGBT Community Center’s Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative, which has helped more than 130 trans San Franciscans find jobs in less than three years.
"San Francisco cannot afford to lose TEEI!" proclaimed supporters in a June 8 press release.
EDGE also previously reported on Florida’s HIV/AIDS organizations’ struggle to cope with a decrease in state funding. Back in Jersey City, Caamano remains hopeful more donors will support her organization’s work.
"I’d like to see people respond to the need," she said.