October 8, 2010; Source: The Saratogian | Let’s all recognize and appreciate the important, perhaps crucial roles that nonprofits have played in the stimulus program. Some parts of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) have been combinations of job creation and social safety net repair on behalf of the people most disadvantaged by the Great Recession, the nation’s low- and very low-income households.
This is clearly evident in upstate New York. The Sarataoga Economic Opportunity Council received $3.17 million in weatherization funds to help 974 households through September 2011, and despite the usual folderol in federal and state transmission of weatherization funds, EOC has already provided weatherization help such as fuel assistance, insulation, stripping and caulk, and high efficiency heating and hot water systems for 316 households.
EOC’s stimulus-generated Community Services Block Grant funds have gone for heating assistance, food stamps, and employment assistance. Additional stimulus dollars have gone to Rebuilding Tomorrow for housing rehabilitation services and the Christian Missionary Alliance (the Pine Knolls Alliance Church in South Glens Falls), which has helped low-income families with weatherization, rent, and food.
In the city of Troy, two nonprofits joined to get a $1.2 million grant for homelessness prevention, which they have used to assist 600 households with back payments to landlords, first month’s rent and security deposits for new apartments, and other help. The stimulus also supports affordable housing development, such as Van Rensselaer Village’s 80-unit, $18 million project in Watervliet, N.Y.
The Saratogian pointed out that more nonprofits would have participated were it not for the new, heavy paperwork requirements attached to stimulus funding. One nonprofit leader said that nonprofits actually turned back the money because of the paperwork requirement, and said, “This was one of the most paperwork heavy grants I have ever dealt with.”
The story in Upstate New York is representative of the national story of the stimulus: for the parts of the stimulus that actually worked, the nonprofit sector played major, perhaps a pivotal role. So why is the nonprofit sector’s leadership so reticent to call attention to the nonprofit sector’s stimulus accomplishments?—Rick Cohen