Nonprofits search for ways to deal with economic challenges | SierraSun.com

Nonprofits search for ways to deal with economic challenges

Nick Cruit
Sierra Sun

Amy Edgett/Sierra SunHealth and Human Services consultant David Gray advised local community organizations the families that are struggling will "fall through the bottom and pop through," increasing demand for community-based services for basic needs.

TRUCKEE “-Health and human services consultant David Gray spoke to a group of local nonprofit representatives at Truckee Town Hall Tuesday about the impact of the economy on community-based services.

With California budget cuts expected in education and health and human services, Gray addressed the future of local programs.

“The taps are going to be turned off,” said Gray, “The question is how do we do more with less?”

Unlike federal budgets, state budgets have to be balanced and cannot exceed available revenues. In order to maintain a budgetary balance, states must draw down reserves, raise new revenues, or cut spending.

And according to Gray, Governor Schwarzenegger wants $4.5 billion in cuts, most of which will come from health and human services.

The state-run Healthy Families program for children is preparing to close enrollment for the first time in its 10-year history and the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board is expected to vote December 17 on freezing enrollment the next day, according to Aurelia Rojas of the Sacramento Bee.

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“There are going to be a lot of measures to protect California revenue streams,” said Gray, later adding that the world of health and human services can expect an increase in demand for help, funding cutbacks, and an overall reduction in community-based service capacity.

With California’s unemployment rate at 7.7 percent, Gray anticipates an influx of people searching for government assistance, many of whom have never needed it.

“People are going to be falling into the system who have no idea what to do,” said Gray.

After the presentation, small groups were formed within the audience and time was given to brainstorm solutions for ways to get through stressful economic times.

While some groups were at a loss for conclusions, others suggested putting energy into helping food banks, sharing more of what we have, and changing the way we view the economy.

“The biggest thing is fear, and we have nothing to be afraid of,” said Andy Hill, director For Goodness Sake spiritual center in Truckee. “We need to come to terms with how important creating a different environment is, where money is not such a big thing, and it is not a stigma if you don’t have it. We need to check in and see what we can do for each other.”

As the discussion continued to search for resolutions, many believed we cannot look at what we have done in the past because the current economic situation is unique.

“We’re going over a waterfall and we don’t know what’s at the bottom,” said Chip Larson, Christ the King Lutheran Church Pastor and head of the North Tahoe Ministerial Association.