FILE PHOTO -- Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano, R-North Haven, holds a news conference with Republicans to announce they will offer a GOP budget into debate on the final day of session at the State Capitol, Wednesday, June 7, 2017, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
August 13, 2017 06:57PM
By Sharlene B. Kerelejza
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The nonprofit sector in Connecticut is staring at the clock, in between feverishly checking dwindling account balances. Some have laid off staff. Some are counting down the days before they shut the doors. In some ways, we have been here before. Yet the differences are critical. In the past, when a budget isn’t passed, we’ve operated under continuing resolution. Now, we are operating under executive order. The former extends contracts in good faith, with a reasonable expectation of funding at previous levels. The latter, executive order, offers no guarantees of payment for services that are currently being rendered, and have been for 6 weeks.
Let’s take this home, shall we. Take about 30 seconds, and do the math. Think of your own personal savings. How long would you last without income? A combination of significant hardships and medical bills earlier this year reminded my family how quickly multiple years of effort saving can be depleted. The anxiety of how long we will sustain in our current state and how we will continue to provide for our family is almost intolerable. We are well supported with an amazing network of family and friends that would never let us go hungry or homeless, and the anxiety builds still.
The nonprofit sector largely serves those without as strong a web of interdependence and support. The folks that Chrysalis serves, as one example, are 90 percent very low income. They depend on our capacity to keep doors open, beds warm, pantries stocked, and support available. These basic needs, provided to victims and survivors of domestic violence and their children, become life-saving.
Without income, the average family is 3 months away from homelessness. We are currently testing each and every state-supported nonprofit in Connecticut to see how far away from homelessness (or closed doors) they are.
This is truly a brutal way to treat a sector that employs 14 percent of Connecticut’s workforce, and the potential consequences to the vulnerable communities we serve are simply cruel. Victims and survivors will contemplate returns to abusive partners or living on the streets.
The uninsured will face reduced or no access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment. Culturally specific organizations will be unable to keep application assistance programs in folks’ native languages. Job training programs will close. State funded/subsidized day cares will not be available to support working families.
Connecticut’s budget crisis is real, but not hopeless, nor permanent. Elected officials who insist otherwise are misleading us.
Yes, tough decisions must be made, and they must be made soon. The time for digging our heels in and grandstanding is over. Too many constituents require a resolution and posturing serves no one. It’s time our elected officials get the job done on behalf of us all.
Sharlene B. Kerelejza is executive director of Meriden-Wallingford Chrysalis.