No good deed goes unpunished in state’s domestic violence funding formula
The domestic violence nonprofit REACH of Macon County is facing a more than $80,000 shortfall next year due partly to state budget cuts and partly to repercussions of stepping up to the plate when assault victims in neighboring Jackson County had no one else to turn to.
Macon REACH expanded into Jackson County last year after the local domestic violence agency there essentially went bankrupt. Macon REACH was initially a stopgap, ensuring that victims of domestic violence in Jackson weren’t simply abandoned. But no other entity has emerged to assume the role, so for now Macon REACH is indefinitely stuck as the lone agency serving victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Jackson.
Yet Macon REACH has not been awarded the full share of state funding that Jackson once got when it had its own agency. Despite serving the population of two counties, Macon REACH isn’t getting funded at a commiserate level by the state. Two state funding streams are doled out per agency, rather than per county being served.
Jackson County Manager Chuck Wooten called the formula unfair.
“We are being penalized,” said Wooten.
In all, it’s about a $75,000 funding hit now that one agency is serving both counties, rather than each having a standalone agency.
Macon REACH has asked Jackson County to help make up the difference. Jackson County made a $20,000 contribution to Macon REACH in the current fiscal year. It has asked for $50,000 for the coming fiscal year to continue providing services in Jackson.
“We appreciate the support you as a county have given us,” Ann VanHarlingen, director of REACH of Macon County, told Jackson County commissioners during a presentation at a county budget workshop last week. “Unfortunately, there have been budget cuts, and our needs have grown due to the reduction of money coming in to Jackson County.”
Jackson County commissioners have seen a parade of nonprofits and agencies clamoring for budget increases in the wake of state cuts — from the public schools to the community college to the library system.
“How much can Jackson County afford to take up the shortfall of what the state is doing?” asked Commissioner Vickie Green. “It is going to be really difficult this year.”
Green acknowledged that Macon REACH has been a lifeline, however.
“I think Jackson is getting a real deal to have the Macon REACH organization continue to provide those services in Jackson County,” Green said.
Macon REACH doesn’t want to sacrifice the level of services for domestic violence victims in its home county to prop up a shortfall in the funding formula for Jackson County, said Andrea Anderson, services director for Macon REACH. The nonprofit keeps a separate financial accounting for the services it provides in Jackson.
“We want people in both counties to know that resources meant for that county are used for that county,” said Anderson.