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Ziahmie're Roberts, 3, a student at the Scott Early Learning Center, Bloomington, helps staff and volunteers at Children's Home & Aid in Bloomington by unloading a stuffed animal from a Connect Transit bus in December 2017 at the conclusion of the annual Stuff the Bus drive to benefit children who use the agency's Crisis Nursery.

BLOOMINGTON — Frustrated McLean County human services agency heads are anticipating funding cuts of about 20 percent for programs supported by United Way of McLean County for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

That would be on top of the 54 percent across-the-board cut by United Way for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

"That's nearly 75 percent in two years," said Lisa Pieper, regional vice president with Children's Home & Aid. "That's alarming to me as a community member who donates to United Way."

United Way said Wednesday it has about $1,050,000 for the fiscal year beginning July 1, including money for agency programs.

While United Way said allocations for agency programs have not yet been determined, an executive of one agency said, "We were told at a meeting by United Way that about $800,000 would be allocated for agency programs."

Pieper said agencies have been told to expect program funding to be cut 18 percent to 25 percent.

"It is my understanding that allocations will go down 20 to 25 percent because of the (United Way fundraising) campaign going down," said Peter Rankaitis, executive director of Project Oz.

"We're anticipating around a 20 percent cut based on information coming from the campaign but I've not been given anything official," said Tom Barr, executive director of the Center for Human Services.

"It's a significant funding decrease for our two programs (that get United Way dollars) — Scott Early Learning Center and the Crisis Nursery," Pieper said. Scott received $6,762 this fiscal year and the Crisis Nursery received $11,206.

Pieper will look to other funders to help to support Scott but will need to make cuts to the Crisis Nursery.

Project Oz has several programs that receive United Way money but the largest is Yes (formerly called SAME), which received $54,907 this year to help at-risk high school students to graduate on time, Rankaitis said. He hopes to keep the program stable by getting more money from school districts.

"We hope to maintain (our programs) by looking to other sources of funding," Rankaitis said. "We know United Way is struggling. The business climate has changed."

"You'll never find a bigger United Way supporter than I am," Rankaitis said. "They need to get better footing."

Barr said after last year's cut, Center for Human Services got United Way approval to use its entire allocation ($92,769) for the CHS medical program, which provides psychiatric services to people with mental illness with the greatest need and fewest resources.

"Any decrease in funding threatens our ability to serve as many people as we have in the past," Barr said. "We will look at using our reserves to serve people where the needs are most critical. And, like other agencies, we will be looking for other funding opportunities."

"It makes it very tough on nonprofits," said Cheryl Gaines, CEO of the counseling agency Collaborative Solutions Institute. Collaborative Solutions receives $14,941 for its OPTIONS program.

Collaborative Solutions has downsized during the past couple of years because of United Way and state funding cuts but continues to provide services, Gaines said.

"I'm disappointed," Gaines said. "Somehow we all have to do a better job, including United Way, in getting the message out of the importance of the work we do."

Contact Paul Swiech at (309) 820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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