Social service cuts hit where it hurts

LAKE STEVENS — Tell Jennie Marker that it’s nothing personal, that it’s just the economy causing someone like her to be dropped from a program that provides child care to parents going back to college.

Marker, 24, is a single mom with a 3-year-old daughter, Taylor. She started her college career at Everett Community College and is now a junior pursuing an anthropology major at the University of Washington. She proudly discloses that her cumulative grade point average is 3.86.

The Volunteers of America program, which pays the bulk of her child care bill, has made all the difference, she said.

“What this program means to me I can’t even put into words,” she said. “The last thing you want to do is get accepted into an internationally recognized research school and then turn it down because you can’t get child care.”

However, a drop in public contributions to this year’s United Way campaign is forcing the organization to cut $391,000, about 12 percent, from its funding to 91 social service programs in Snohomish County.

The cuts, which go into effect in March, affect basic services such as child care, food banks and help to the disabled.

“The hard part is that the need is increasing because of the economy,” said Deborah Squires, a spokeswoman for United Way of Snohomish County. “Because of the economy, the ability to raise money is harder.”

In addition, United Way has cut $296,000 from its own budget. One position has already been eliminated and other reductions will have to be made.

United Way’s annual fund drive continues through May. The organization hopes to get an additional $900,000 in donations. But when projections showed that it will come up nearly $700,000 short, it notified area nonprofit organizations that their allocations will be smaller this year, Squires said.

The last time United Way had similar reductions was 2006, when groups saw their allocations cut by about 10 percent, Squires said.

Bill Humphreys, a vice president at Volunteers of America, which provides services for children, adults and families, will see its United Way support drop by about $53,000 this year.

Just as more people need help, “we get fewer dollars to do the job with,” he said.

The money helps support a distribution center that gives food to food banks, a child-care program for women enrolled in school, and other services.

As a consequence of the United Way cuts, the food distribution center and Everett food bank will lose almost $15,000 at a time when more people are being served at the food bank — 6,643 in January alone, compared with 5,540 in January 2008.

The cuts also will also mean eight fewer adults with developmental disabilities and a dozen fewer low-income kids will be able to attend camp this summer, Humphreys said.

The YMCA of Snohomish County is still trying to figure out how to adjust to a cut of $35,280 from its United Way funds this year. The nonprofit provides a variety of programs, including childcare, family swimming and aerobics.

Some county YMCA branches are seeing a decline in memberships, while the number of families seeking financial aid to participate in programs is increasing.

“Daily we’re seeing the impact of the economy,” said Scott Washburn, president and chief executive officer. “It’s not just United Way, but United Way in combination with other sources of revenue.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486,

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