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Council committee approves social service funding recommendations

Friday, September 16, 2011 by Josh Rosenblatt

Nearly a year after Council voted for a new competitive social service contracting process, the Public Health and Human Services Committee has approved a staff-recommended funding list for three-year contracts with 30 agencies. The committee also approved divvying up $380,000 to three social service groups that currently receive some city funding but that didn’t make the new list.


At Thursday’s committee meeting, staff presented the results of a tiered award system that would provide between 50 and 80 percent of requested funding to 30 agencies based on three main scoring criteria: 1) the quality of their proposal; 2) which goal their projects aim to address (certain goals, such as Safety Net/Infrastructure are scored higher than others, such as Enrichment); 3) whether their proposal addresses more than one goal.


Under the guidelines of the proposed scoring matrix, groups that scored in the highest tier would be funded at 80 percent of their request, groups that scored in the second tier would be funded at 75 percent, and groups that scored in the third tier would be funded at 50 percent.


Meals on Wheels and More received the highest score. Staff recommended that the group receive $394,803 annually for the next three years, or 80 percent of their requested funding. Goodwill Industries, meanwhile, would receive 75 percent of its requested funding, or $873,324. At the bottom of the list sits AISD’s Prime Time Program, which would receive 50 percent of its requested $901,527.


An additional 16 agencies would receive more than $2 million through collaborative projects with the awardees, said Assistant City Manager Bert Lumbreras. He said he believes the new scoring system will actually prove to be more beneficial to the city, despite complaints from numerous service agencies that city funds are being spread too thin.


“If we were to have funded 100 percent based on the ranking list we would have only funded 16 agencies,” Lumbreras told the committee. “Here we have 30 awardees and an additional 16 agencies that benefit from the collaborations.”


The Health and Human Services Department has an available budget of $13,205,639 for social service projects for FY2012.


The committee also voted on how to allocate $380,000 in funds left over from the Health and Human Services FY09-10 budget. Rather than rolling that money over into a reserve fund, Council voted last January to allocate that money as a one-time source of “transitional” funding for social service groups that are currently funded by the city but will lose that funding as a result of the RFP criteria.


“The current recommendations through the RFP process are kind of a separate issue,” explained Council Member Mike Martinez, the committee’s chair. “(This unallocated money) will help groups transition that didn’t make the list or that were severely cut through the RFP process.”


If the full Council approves the committee’s recommendation, the Council on At-Risk Youth will receive $176,400, Immigrant Counseling and Outreach Services will receive $70,540, and Austin Travis County Integral Care will receive $71,000. In each case, the amount is equal to 70 percent of requested funding for FY2012 or 100 percent of actual funding for FY2011.


Martinez noted that those three proposals only add up to $317,940, leaving the committee with $62,060. Council Member Chris Riley proposed that the extra money go to the Green Doors permanent supportive housing project. Permanent supportive housing, Riley noted, is slated to play a large part in the city’s future development plans and is a good way to “reach the most vulnerable.”


“PSH is a fairly recent effort to address a very long-term problem,” said Riley. “It’s an emerging effort. I would hope that in future funding cycles we would have more coordinated efforts. It is an exceptional need. I believe we should take this unique opportunity to meet this exceptional need with this funding that’s available.”


His colleagues agreed and the committee voted unanimously to recommend allocating the remaining funds to Green Doors. Staff has to move quickly to get the $380,000 allocation recommendation on Council’s agenda next week, as the City Charter requires that the resolution be adopted before the end of FY2011 to be a part of the FY2012 budget.

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