Social services panel streamlines process for receiving city grants

Posted: Friday, January 23, 2004

The city Social Services Advisory Board is revamping the application process for block grants after facing complaints and problems in fiscal years' 2003-04 budget cycle.

The city scores grant applications based on certain criteria.

Gastineau Human Services was among the agencies that filed its application properly for those years. But the city's rescoring of other applicants cost it a $49,975 grant in fiscal 2004 for its Taku Supportive Prevention Program aimed at helping children of parents with substance abuse problems. GHS received the grant in fiscal 2003.

Unlike GHS, some agencies incorrectly filed their applications. When the board rejected some of those applications, the agencies complained to the Juneau Assembly, which suggested the rejected applications be rescored. The board did so. That resulted in some agencies achieving a higher score and bumping others, such as GHS, for funding.

"It was a real disappointment for not being able to do more for that client's need," said Michael Rowcroft, the clinical supervisor at GHS.

This year the board will not rescore applications that are submitted incorrectly, said board Chairwoman Michelle Casey, the education director at Bartlett Regional Hospital. Applications are due March 1, and late ones will not be accepted.

The board held a meeting Tuesday for agency officials to ask questions about the fiscal years' 2005-06 block grant application process. The board also posted a copy of the application process on the city's Web site in December to allow agencies time to review the paperwork before Tuesday's meeting.

Those actions were taken to avoid the problems that occurred in the previous budget cycle, Casey said.

In the last budget cycle, 18 agencies applied for 26 grants, and nine applications were rejected because they were not filled out properly. The board said those agencies failed to properly follow application instructions, noting the majority applied correctly. The rejected agencies contended the instructions were unclear.

Southeast Alaska Guidance Association was one of the agencies that had its application initially rejected and later rescored after it accidentally omitted the name of its board president on a line in the application, Executive Director Joe Parrish said.

"I think they (board members) are being proactive in making this round of funding as painless as possible," Parrish said.

Rowcroft of GHS said he planned to apply again for funding for the Taku Supportive Prevention Program. This time he will apply for up to $25,000, instead of $50,000, because he found the program can be run less expensively. GHS operated the program on a skeletal basis after losing the city funding in 2004.

Agencies apply once every two years for funding. The money is distributed each year of the two-year funding cycle. It's unclear how much the city will allocate in block grants for 2005-06 because officials are still working on the city budget.

In fiscal 2003, the city allocated $705,500. It used $472,500 from the general fund, $215,000 in tobacco excise tax and $18,000 in alcohol tax revenue. But in fiscal 2004, the city funded only $567,500 in grants. That lesser amount affected agencies such as GHS.

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