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Charity is topic for chamber lunch

PFD's donor program, Alaska 211 system discussed

Posted: January 11, 2013 - 12:05am

United Way President Wayne Stevens addressed the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Thursday on ways to find and fund social services in Southeast Alaska. Stevens held up the permanent fund donation program Pick. Click. Give for the giving side of the equation and the phone service Alaska 211 for the social service side.

Alaska 211 connects callers with agents in Anchorage who can pass on information and assistance for food, child care, health care, mental health care and rent and utility assistance, Stevens said.

Alaska 211 was established in 2007. Since then, the social service call center has fielded 75,000 calls and 100,000 page hits at its online service at alaska.211.org.

Stevens said 80 percent of calls to Alaska 211 are for referrals — where to find food, child care or housing for elderly parents for when they are no longer able to live in child’s home.

With the emergency number 911 being pestered by non-emergency calls, Stevens said, having the option to dial 211 could ease the state’s emergency responder system.

Alaska 211 works with dozens of service agencies with room for more.

“We’d certainly like to know who they are,” Stevens said.

Food is the number one most requested assistance, Stevens said; housing assistance is also a top request — often by families who came to Alaska to chase their dreams.

“Job didn’t pan out, weather didn’t pan,” Stevens said.

Pick. Click. Give. is a program that allows Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend recipients to donate part of the disbursement to an Alaska non-profit organization out of a list 471 — including 44 in Juneau.

Residents can opt in to Pick. Click. Give. while signing up for the 2013 dividend through March 31.

For a non-profit to be a part of the program it must register with Pick. Click. Give. The process “is not onerous, but it is thorough,” Stevens said.

Chamber members expressed concern that for some non-profits the financial cost of participation could outweigh the benefits. Non-profits with budgets over $250,000 are required to have an independent audit that could cost thousands of dollars.

“An audit can be $5,000 or $6,000 depending on size of organization and generosity of auditor,” Stevens said, “At times the reward does not cover audit costs.”

This list of criteria, audit requirement included, was written into the 2008 legislation that established Pick. Click. Give. Any change to the criteria requires legislative action.

The audit has already come under legislative fire. Rep. Paul Seaton introduced HB 302 in January of 2012 during the 27th Legislature. The bill would have repealed the audit requirement — section 3 of Alaska Statute 43.23.062(d)(8). Seaton gave the example of a non-profit senior center in Seward on the Kenai Peninsula. With an annual budget of $280,000 the center would have to pay $8,000 for an audit to enroll.

HB 302 “repeals the audit requirement for applicant organizations because it was seen as a barrier for small organizations,” according to Seaton’s statement on the bill.

Heather Beaty, program manager for Pick. Click. Give., said she could not say for certain whether any member non-profits have spent more on audits than they received in permanent fund donations, however, she said the amount of money organizations make from pick click and give varies. The list of Pick. Click. Give. member organization continues to grow with the 2013 list of 471 non-profits the highest since the program’s inception.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com. 

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