County Grant Proposal Would Strip Funding from Eight Nonprofits

Eight Loudoun nonprofits that received Loudoun County government grants last year would get no funding in fiscal year 2018 under a proposal to revamp the program.

County budget staff last week recommended Mobile Hope, the American Red Cross, Help for Others, the Loudoun Free Clinic, Capital Caring, Blue Ridge Speech and Hearing, Friends of Loudoun Mental Health and the Loudoun Symphony receive no grant funding from the county under a new model developed in the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee. Supervisors have struggled for several years to devise an apolitical way of ranking and funding nonprofits that apply for the county’s limited grant funding. Last year, the county’s $1,058,915 in nonprofit grants amounted to 0.2 percent of the county’s $475 million general operating fund.

The board is expected to vote on June 22. Many fiscal years begin on July 1, leaving many nonprofits with only days to react.

Many of the county’s nonprofits have reacted with alarm. The Loudoun Human Services Network, which represents 25 Loudoun nonprofits, sent a letter to county supervisors expressing “grave concern” about the proposed funding.

“The organizations that are recommended for total elimination or significant funding reductions in FY 2018 from the FY 2017 funding levels are a critical part of our human service safety net,” the letter reads. “These funding losses will lead to the loss of services that are necessary for a healthy, safe, productive community.”

The Loudoun Human Services Network asked supervisors to ensure those nonprofits get funding, citing the “thousands of people relying on services provided by these nonprofits now and in the future.” The nonprofit network also asked the county to establish a Human Services Advisory Committee, to bring the nonprofit leaders into the discussion.

The letter is signed by leaders of nonprofits that may lose funding, as well by those who stand to get more funding under the proposed distribution system.

Under the old grant procedures, applications from nonprofits were divided into five areas of need and ranked within those areas using a numerical scoring system. Funding was based on prior year funding: a nonprofit that scored in the top third of applicants received a five percent increase, while those in the bottom third received a five percent decrease. First-time applicants were capped at $5,000, only receiving funding if they ranked in the top third of applicants.

Supervisors found that, too, to be unsatisfactory, because it based funding levels on the number of grants that were given before a scoring system was implemented. Some supervisors proposed a zero-year, starting every nonprofit on level footing again.

Under the proposed new system, developed chiefly by Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), applications from nonprofits would still be given numerical scores, but funding would be allocated according to a percentage of the total scoring in their service category, multiplied by the funding available. County staff members set a minimum score to receive funding, and no nonprofit would be permitted to get more than their request.

In total, those eight nonprofits would lose $219,796 in funding compared with the old model and $225,393 compared to last year, although the county proposes to increase the total amount of grant funding by $31,788 this year. The balance of that money would be redistributed to other nonprofits.

Some charities would benefit greatly under the new system, if it’s approved—OAR of Fairfax, which works with inmates in the adult detention center, would see its funding increase eightfold, from under $10,000 to $87,643 compared to the old system. The Alzheimer’s Association would see nearly three times the funding, from $5,349 to $20,000.

First time awardees, which would have been capped at $5,000 under the old system, could also see much larger grants. The Arc of Loudoun at Paxton Campus, which provides services to people with developmental disabilities, would see eleven times its funding compared to the old system, from $5,000 to $60,000.

This article was updated June 22, 2017 at 3:36 p.m. to reflect corrections to a county document.

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