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Following sponsor rejection, millions of dollars are put on hold for community organizations in Rochester



Rochester, New York – Following the denial of a new financial sponsor during a committee vote in the Monroe County Legislature, several community organizations will have to wait longer for the distribution of more than $6 million in federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act.

The Neighborhood Collaborative Project (NCP) is a cooperation in which the organizations are involved. Together, they offer those in need things like food and housing support.
NCP has twelve partners, including Action for a Better Community (ABC).

“We need those funds to start flowing,” said Jerome Underwood, the president and CEO of ABC. “We need it to start flowing immediately and that’s our position. We should not have to wait any longer.”

ABC has managed to survive, but it has had to change its outreach initiatives, such as its Action Front Center, which provides assistance to individuals living with HIV.

“Some of our staff and even community members that we would sort of hire, if you will, and pay them stipends to do outreach as credible messengers into those difficult communities is no longer happening and hasn’t been happening for months,” said Underwood.

While Underwood acknowledged that ABC is in debt, she pointed out that other partners are in considerably worse shape and have had to deal with issues like closure as a result of the money that was supposed to be used to fund vital services being frozen.

“Fortunately, we can weather that storm of $6,000,” he said. “ABC is a much larger organization, and the impact to us is not as devastating as it is to some of our smaller brother and sister organizations.”

On Tuesday, the nonprofit Starbridge submitted a contract to become the new administrator responsible for disbursing federal funds to the NCP organizations for their services, but the Ways and Means Committee rejected it.

This comes after the Community Resource Collaborative (CRC), which was formerly in charge of that matter, was subject to a forensic review by the county about financial malfeasance.
In March, the forensic review’s findings were made public.

Of the seven legislators who voted against, Representative Rachel Barnhart was one.

“I did not think that this project should go intact,” she said. “There needed to be controls in place and there were no assurances that that would happen.”

For her, voting “yes” would mean drastically altering the NCP’s current organizational structure.

“I think that the nonprofits have to submit receipts,” Barnhart explained. “We can’t have any of these vendors on retainer. They’ve got to show their work. They need to show what hours they’re working and who’s working these jobs. We need to make sure we have licensed vocational workers and licensed social workers so that we can’t just hire friends and family.”

Legislator John Baynes, one of the five Democrats who voted in favor of sanctioning the contract, attempted to table the issue after concerns regarding the level of accusations were expressed.

“My ‘yes’ vote reflected the fact that the county had done its due diligence, had really carefully looked for a fiduciary to play the role of carefully accounting for the money that the federal government had entrusted to our county to distribute,” he said.

Those involved in the NCP hope that their clients are not overlooked while the organization’s future is still uncertain.

“Some of these folks are hard to reach and if the services are not there, who knows what they’re doing, what they are experiencing without the capacity of the (Neighborhood) Collaborative to do the kind of outreach that’s necessary to get to them,” said Underwood.

The entire Legislature could review this in a few different ways, but doing so would need 15 votes, which Baynes and Barnhart don’t think they currently have.
The NCP has been suspended, but County Executive Adam Bello’s administration is still dedicated to the partnership’s objectives, the county stated in a statement on Tuesday.