Connect to Care’s budget trimmed, but charity says ‘services being kept whole.’
UJA-Federation of New York’s signature response to the recession, a program that has helped some 22,000 people with a wide range of unemployment-related services, has itself fallen victim to the budget axe.
The charity’s board of directors has approved a 12-month, $4 million budget for Connect to Care in the fiscal year that starts July 1, down from the $6.8 million that was allotted for the initial 15-month period in 2009-10.
But UJA-Federation officials stress that “no client will see any difference in services.”
Connect to Care, “the centerpiece of [the philanthropy’s] efforts to help the Jewish community during a period of enormous economic distress,” according to the program’s literature, has offered several first-time programs on behalf of unemployed and underemployed Jews in the New York area. It also consolidated the activities of such agencies as the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the Federation Employment and Guidance Service (FEGS), the New York Legal Assistance Group, synagogues and Jewish community centers.
Allocations to Connect to Care, like all recipients of UJA-Federation funds, were cut in the 2010-11 budget because contributions to UJA-Federation dipped after the recession hit.
UJA-Federation’s overall budget in 2010-11 for grants in program services will be $129.2 million, a 3 percent reduction from $133.1 million in the soon-to-end fiscal year.
But John Ruskay, UJA-Federation executive vice president and CEO, assured, “we will still be able to respond to the needs of the Jewish community.”
He noted that while total grants have been reduced by about 8 percent over the past two years, the annual campaign’s efforts combined with additional spending from UJA-Federation’s endowment “has enabled us to maintain unrestricted support for most domestic agencies at 99 percent of the amount they received prior to the economic crisis — a figure almost unheard of for other foundations, federations and government funding sources.”
The original $6.8 million Connect to Care budget included $1.7 million in “startup costs” that the program will not incur in the future, said Roberta Leiner, managing director of UJA-Federation’s Caring Commission, under whose aegis Connect to Care operates. She added that “administrative costs” like marketing and training, paid by the philanthropy itself, constitute much of the remaining cut in the 2010-11 budget, while services offered by participating agencies “will not be reduced in any substantial way. All services will be available.”
She said agencies that receive funds from Connect to Care “will not incur more than a 10 to 15 percent reduction in their annual budget.
“The board’s approval for renewal funding,” Leiner said, “served as a stark reminder that Connect to Care continues to be a powerful communal resource.”
“The need” — a continuing high unemployment rate in the New York area — “is still there,” Leiner said. “Connect to Care will continue to offer our community a range of integrated job, vocational, legal, financial counseling and supportive counseling services to ease the burden for members of our community still struggling under the weight of job, income and asset loss.”
During its first nine months, Connect to Care assisted more than 20,000 members of the Jewish community, in “actual concrete services,” Leiner said. That figure includes 317 people who found jobs through “the direct efforts” of FEGS, hundreds who took part in financial counseling and legal workshops, some 2,500 who went to job fairs and more than 5,000 who attended employment service workshops, Leiner said.
In terms of UJA-Federation’s annual campaign, which has seven weeks until completion, Ruskay expressed confidence that the goal of $134 million would be reached or exceeded. Last year’s annual campaign, in the teeth of the recession, netted $136 million, which was seen by the charity’s officials as a very solid figure given conditions. But, Ruskay added, it will take some time for the charity to return to pre-2007-’08 fundraising levels.
The next program sponsored by Connect to Care (firstname.lastname@example.org), will be a job fair on Wednesday, May 26, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., at the Central Queens Y, 67-09 108th St. (For information:  224-0566).
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