Twenty-five community organizations in Brooklyn have been dealt out of a $41 million round of federal AIDS funding–money that will now go to Manhattan-based citywide groups instead. And even a recent city promise to add another $5 million won't be enough to repair the damage, they say.
“This is basically a plan where federal money is being shifted from programs that serve people of color to white people,” charged Carol Horwitz, a lawyer at the Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, whose group received $105,000 in Ryan White Care Act Title I money last year to provide services for people with HIV ranging from custody planning to representation in eviction proceedings.
In November, Horwitz's organization found out they would not receive Ryan White funding in 1998, as did two of Brooklyn's three Haitian-run AIDS programs and nine out of 10 support groups serving AIDS sufferers and their families in Crown Heights, Brownsville and East New York.
According to Horwitz, 75 percent of the federal funding that previously went to Brooklyn CBOs was moved to Manhattan-based groups like the Gay Men's Health Crisis. The Mayor's Planning Council on HIV/AIDS had mandated that the funds be granted to geographically appropriate CBOs with a long history of serving their communities.
“Seventy percent of new AIDS cases are in the outer boroughs,” said Abigail Hunter of the Williamsburg/Greenpoint/Bushwick HIV Care Network, one of three umbrella groups for community-based HIV organizations in Brooklyn. “The planning council directive of giving more money to local CBOs was meant to address the situation. The present funding has done the opposite.”
Who's to blame? The decision was made by a City Hall-contracted nonprofit–the Medical and Health Research Association's HIV care program–but the organization referred inquiries back to the city. “The 1998 contracts are based on an extremely objective criteria set up by the city's Ryan White Planning Council, the state AIDS Institute and the federal government,” said Fred Winters, a spokesman for the city's Department of Health. “Citywide contracts are given out because of economies of scale. There is a finite amount of money available, and there are always worthy programs that won't be funded.”
The coalitions are asking the mayor's office to stop contract negotiations with the grantees and extend 1997 funding until the new grants are reviewed.
However, another $5 million will soon be made available, according to MHRA's Barbara Turk. She said her organization will go back to the list of applicants to award additional grants.
But Hunter pointed out that even with the additional money there is only $131,000 for food and nutrition programs citywide and merely $41,000 for support groups. “That's not enough for one program,” she says, “let alone programs citywide.”