Dozens of D.C. nonprofits serving children lose funding during government shutdown

Dozens of D.C. community organizations that serve needy children are feeling the government-shutdown squeeze.

The community organizations, which provide after-school programs for children, were supposed to receive millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded grant payments Oct. 1. But the payments can’t be made as long as Congress remains deadlocked.

The delay is squeezing small nonprofit groups that serve some of the neediest students in the city, said Rene Wallis, executive director of People, Animals, Love (PAL), which runs after-school programs for more than 300 children at two schools east of the Anacostia River: Stanton Elementary and D.C. Scholars Public Charter School.

“It’s a big problem,” Wallis said. “This is definitely going to slow down after-school for kids in a major way.”

PAL is one of 37 organizations that were supposed to receive a total of $2.25 million in grants from the nonprofit D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., which funnels District funding to groups that serve city children and their parents. The organizations serve more than 2,400 children and about 80 adults.

Ed Davies, the trust’s executive director, said that while the city government has continued to operate, all of the District’s fiscal 2014 appropriations are on hold until the shutdown ends.

“I deeply regret the need to delay grant awards and payments, however this is a situation beyond our control,” Davies wrote in an e-mail to grantees Friday. “Like everyone else, I cannot predict when this issue will be resolved, but I assure you, we will move quickly to finalize grant agreements and expedite payments as soon as we are allowed to do so.”

Wallis said that early fall is always a lean time for D.C. organizations such as PAL, which is awaiting city reimbursement for programs it offered children over the summer. “I’m going to have to sit down and look at cash flow and see what I can swing,” she said.

Wallis said the $76,000 grant PAL had expected to receive Oct. 1 makes up 12 percent of the organization’s entire budget and is meant to fund its efforts to intensify help for children reading below grade level.

The organization can dip into its savings for now but still faces the possibility of having to lay off some of its 42 part-time workers, she said. And not all organizations have enough financial padding to get them through a prolonged shutdown.

Emma Brown writes about national education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.

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