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Concerns about the future are expressed by Rochester organizations as vital federal grants stay frozen



Rochester, New York – Several organizations in Rochester gathered on Friday to express their concerns about their futures due to the recent freeze on federal grants that they require.

“This is truly devastating to our organization and to the people we each serve,” said Patricia Jackson, the executive director of SWAN at Montgomery Neighborhood Center.

SWAN is one of twelve organizations that collaborated under the Neighborhood Collaborative Project (NCP) to offer vital community services, such as job development and food.

“Not only do we work together, but we do it quickly and efficiently because we are right where we need to be in the neighborhoods, accessible, low-barrier, and trusted resources,” said Carmen Allen, the executive director of Beyond the Sanctuary. “I’m representing Beyond the Sanctuary, but I’m really here on behalf of the hundreds of people in our community who are not getting the help that they need because of this situation.”

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money that were given to the groups to be paid were managed by the Community Resource Collaborative (CRC).

The group has received $1.1 million in payments thus far.

A forensic examination was started last week in response to allegations of financial impropriety within the CRC, which resulted in the suspension of that funding and the termination of the original creator.

“We are owed more than four months of operational expenses,” said Beatriz LeBron, the executive director of the Father Tracy Advocacy Center. “Two of those months were disbursed from the County to CRC and never made it to FTAC. Two months of those four months are now frozen.”

They are now unsure about continuing some programs and paying employees.

“We have seven staff who may be at risk of losing their jobs,” said Olivia Kassoum-Amadou, the executive director of Cameron Community Ministries. “We have four programs that may be at risk of closing. The individuals that we serve are some of the most vulnerable individuals in our community and they depend on us for the services that we provide daily.”

“As we navigate this challenging period, we face a harsh reality that I am going to have to limit my operations and furlough my dedicated staff to this mission and cause after today, Feb. 16,” said LeBron.

To stay afloat, the organizations are requesting donations.

“We need your help,” said Kassoum-Amadou. “Please. Any donations – none are too small. Please check out our websites.”

“If you are unable to donate financially, we also welcome in-kind donations of the following items: sandwich bread, sandwich meat, coffee grounds, sugar, powdered creamer, winter gloves, and hand warmers,” said LeBron.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said in a statement that his administration is “taking immediate action by issuing a new Request for Qualifications (RFQ), which would result in a new fiscal agent for this program.” He has also them to “explore possible alternate means of funding for NCP members, as well as identify programs and services available through Monroe County Department of Human Services and other county departments that could assist individuals affected by any slowdown of NCP services.”

“We hope that the NCP will be able to continue their mission and work once our concerns are addressed and a new fiscal agent is in place,” he added.

“I remain committed to working with these well-established[ed] non-profits to ensure our community continues to receive the necessary resources provided by these partners like afterschool programming, housing, and workforce development,” the president of the Monroe County legislature added in a statement.

On Tuesday, the Monroe County GOP demanded an impartial inquiry into the CRC’s purported mismanagement.

“Our community deserves answers, and those responsible must be held accountable,” said Monroe County Republican Committee Chair Patrick Reilly, in a statement. “This will only happen if there is a full and independent investigation into all involved in this alleged mismanagement of ARPA funds.”