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Hartford Council's Emergency Fund For Nonprofits Is Depleted

By JEFFREY B. COHEN | The Hartford Courant

October 29, 2008

If you and your nonprofit are looking for some emergency money from the Hartford city council, you're too late.

Barely four months into the fiscal year, the council has allocated all of the $400,000 it reserves for "civic and cultural affairs" for everything from capital improvements for a local fraternity to basketball leagues, domestic violence programs and a jazz festival.

"There's no more money," city council budget committee Chairman Pedro Segarra said. "We're all out. It's all done. And by last year, even as far as March, we still had money in that account."

Some on the council say the increase in early funding from the panel is a sign of the tight economy's effect on local fundraising and decreasing federal Community Development Block Grant funds. But Segarra and others are wondering whether the account given the city's projected $40 million deficit next year, given the 56 employees it just laid off should live to see another fiscal year. At its best, it helps bail out organizations in need of quick funds. At its worst, they say, it is a pet-projects fund.

Democratic Majority Leader rJo Winch said eliminating the fund is a possibility.

"It could be," Winch said. "These aren't city-run programs. These are all nonprofits that the city tries to assist the best we can, when we can."

Working Families Party member Larry Deutsch says that some of the funding the council approves such as for historic preservation are good causes being paid for out of the wrong fund.

The fund has allocated money this year to a few dozen organizations, including the West Indian Celebration Parade Committee, the Greater Hartford Pro-Am, the HartBeat Ensemble, Guakia Inc., the Connecticut Pride Hartford Rally and Festival, and the Hartford Public Library. The library money was to help reopen two closed city branches earlier this year.

"Some might construe it as pork," Segarra said of the fund. "There's questions about are you allocating the funds equally throughout the city, but the reality is that there's not that much money there."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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