Christine Stuart photo
Heather Gates, president and CEO of Community Health Resources (Christine Stuart photo)

Fearing lawmakers may not reach a budget deal before July 1, the Community Providers Association, a coalition of nonprofits that rely on state funding, held a rally Friday to urge lawmakers to find a way to keep the money flowing even without a budget in place.

The Community Providers Association represents about 350 organizations statewide that provide programs for people with mental illness, substance use disorders and developmental disabilities.

At Friday’s rally Heather Gates, president and CEO of Community Health Resources, said 24.4 percent of the providers will only be able to meet one payroll if the state budget is not passed on time. About 64 percent of the providers would only be able to manage for one month or less without state payments.

“That’s a very short period of time for the extremely vulnerable group we’re serving,” Gates said.

Already many of the providers are struggling since the state has failed to increase funding for the past two years.

Tom Sullivan, executive director of Arc of New London County, Inc., said about three weeks ago one of his employees can to him for money to buy groceries. She needed $20 to feed herself and her family, he said. He said many in the private provider field have to work two jobs in order to make a living.

Sullivan and the Community Providers Association are asking for a $65 million increase in funding for each of the two fiscal years.

Gates said she recognizes lawmakers are dealing with a significant budget deficit this year, but its “our responsibility to advocate for the necessary funds and consequences if that funding doesn’t come through.”

“If the legislature fails to produce a budget agreement and the state is therefore unable to provide funding for these programs, there will be an immediate impact on people in need,” Terry Edelstein, president and CEO of the Community Providers Association, said. “Agencies will not be able to make payroll and unable to provide the services they’re been contracted by the state provide.”

If the funding increase doesn’t come through the survey conducted by the association found 80 percent will be forced to eliminate positions, 63 percent will be forced to reduce direct service to clients and 40 percent will be forced to delay or refuse admission to programs.

Sullivan said this is really about the future of the industry.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are sympathetic to the funding needs of the Community Providers Association, but are focused on reaching a budget deal.

However, the budget meeting scheduled for Friday was canceled by the governor’s office. Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s spokesman Chris Cooper said the meeting was postponed because the late night Thursday, which went until the early morning hours Friday. He said the governor was having her own internal budget meetings Friday.