Proposed cuts would hit Montana nonprofits, community programs hard

KPAX – October 5, 2017

Proposed budget cuts to state agencies will have a heavy-handed effect on Montana’s nonprofit sector, according to  Heather O’Loughlin, co-director of the Montana Budget and Policy Center.

Because a large percentage of the proposed state budget cuts, up to 10 percent of each state agency, will come from the Department of Public Health and Human Services, the nonprofit sector that receives money to facilitate services will be hit hard.

Some organizations that receive state money also receive matching federal funds.

“Part of the challenge with public health and human services, when you cut a dollar of state funds it is also resulting in a cut of federal dollars as well,” O’Loughlin said. “So, it has huge ramifications on the services that the department can provide, particularly to our most vulnerable Montanans.”

DPHHS has $105 million worth of programs up for being eliminated. This represents a broad range of services, ranging from foster care family support to services for senior citizens and many others.

“Foster care children will suffer, because of healthcare and case management that is being eliminated,” said Susan Hay Patrick, Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Missoula. “Those struggling with substance abuse disorders, such as opioid or meth addiction and mental health issues, will not have affordable access to treatment. People in rural areas, it is proposed that they close nearly 20 public assistance offices in Montana. So, that is going to really hurt people in poverty and on the edge in our rural communities.”

She says Montana’s nonprofit sector already maximizes its resources to care for people.

“The nonprofit sector, which is both very vibrant in Montana and also fragile, cannot replace the role of government in helping people. It just is not feasible. We cannot shoulder more of the burden then we already are. And if these budget cuts go into effect, it will really hurt the lives of real people.”

Because of a scarcity of foundations and philanthropic funding sources in Montana, Hay Patrick says the private sector will not be able to fill the deficit that could be caused if these proposed cuts go into effect and lose both state and matching dollars.

Hay Patrick says that nonprofit organizations are banding together to educate their supporters and representatives about the loss that would stem from these cuts.

“As a sector, I think nonprofits stand ready and willing to be part of the solution and to cut where we can, but we are not going to succeed if we are asked to cut our organizations to the bone,” she said. “People will suffer.”

With large budget decisions still in flux, Montanans are being asked to contact their state representatives with questions and concerns.

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