With additional pandemic relief funds unlikely to come out of Congress any time soon, nonprofit organizations across Connecticut are wondering how they will continue providing services without financial assistance.
The pandemic has put additional strain on the state’s chronically underfunded nonprofit services system. The first round of coronavirus relief aid and Paycheck Protection Program loans helped many providers continue to provide services, but those funds are largely used up and hopes of another round of funding appear dashed until at least next year.
In the meantime, a nonprofit association is looking to the state to scramble a relief fund to help bridge the gap until another relief package is passed. Without it, some of the state’s nonprofits may be forced to shutter their operations and others will reduce the programs and services they offer, Gian-Carl Casa, president and CEO of the Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance, said.
“Words like programs and services are a step away from people. But what that means is that employees of nonprofits won’t be working and people who depend on their services won’t be getting them. It will hurt people in Connecticut,” he said.
Nonprofits in Connecticut offer a wide range of services to some of the state’s most vulnerable populations. Some assist people with substance abuse problems and intellectual disabilities. Others run shelters or programs to ease the transition from prison back into the community. Some nonprofits take care of children in the foster care system.
In an effort to highlight the work of nonprofit employees, Gov. Ned Lamont met Friday with providers of the Children’s League of Connecticut at the Klingberg Family Center in New Britain. While much of the state shut down during the pandemic, many nonprofits saw the need for their services rise, he said.
“We need you more than ever and you need the support more than ever,” Lamont told the group that included group home workers and foster parents. “We’ve got to make sure that on the back side of this COVID, these kids know that we love them, we’re standing with them and there’s going to be a better day.”
The governor called the financing situation “complicated” and the status of federal funding “herky jerky.” PPP loans were helpful while they lasted and the state was still working to get $125 million of the first round of relief funding out the door and into the hands of nonprofits.
Lamont said that nonprofits could participate in the Shared Work program, which pays an employer’s share of unemployment benefits for workers who have had their hours reduced, but he acknowledged that many nonprofit workers have continued to work full time.
“We have to do better,” Lamont said.
Lynn Bishop, president of the Children’s League of Connecticut, said PPP loans help offset the financial burden of more than half of the 11 organizations in CLOC. But she said funding during the pandemic is a source of angst for the organizations.
“I think we’re just really trying to be creative. What else is out there? Where else can we tap into? Are there grants or foundation money? We can’t really do fundraising in this period of time but what can we use as a collective pull with the 11 of us to say ‘how are you surviving?’ How are you continuing to move forward?’” she said.
Funding struggles are a familiar problem for the nonprofit system. Casa said his organization estimates that nonprofits in Connecticut that receive funding from the state started the year $461 million behind inflation even before the pandemic hit. COVID-19 has only increased the costs of providing services, he said.
Alyssa Goduti, president and CEO of Ädelbrook Behavioral and Developmental Services, said the coronavirus has only exacerbated a “bigger systemic issue” that makes it a challenge for nonprofits to recruit staff.
“As our heroes, they should be compensated at a level that really honors their work. We’re hoping to work in partnership with the legislature and the administration to try to address that going forward,” Goduti said.
Casa said many nonprofits hope to have enough funding to protect their employees as Connecticut braces for another surge in virus cases. They are concerned about the vulnerable populations that receive their services.
The pandemic has “added a level of anxiety to the lives of people who had very little disruption but for people who have needs that are served by nonprofits, I think putting anxiety and stress on top of that is really an unfair pressure,” he said.