The United Way of Halton and Hamilton cut over $170,000 in funding to upwards of 24 city groups. Councillors are demanding United Way officials meet with them to discuss the reasoning behind their decision. – Kevin Werner/Metroland
Officials from the United Way of Halton and Hamilton have agreed to meet with Hamilton council after the organization slashed over $170,000 in funding to up to 24 community groups this year.
Glanbrook Coun. Brenda Johnson said she will reserve her proposal to ask Hamilton to end its relationship with the United Way and encourage the city’s 6,000 staff and councillors to end their payroll donations to the United Way and instead give their money to local charitable groups impacted by the funding cuts.
“I have really taken issue with this,” said Johnson.
The United Way eliminated over $174,000 in funding to about 24 community organizations for this year, said Johnson. Those funding cuts included $12,000 that impacted Glanbrook Home Support’s Meals on Wheels program that serves over 200 clients, about $32,000 to the Dundas Community Services, and over $17,000 that was eliminated to Flamborough Connects.
“We are pretty upset,” Jane Allen, executive director of Dundas Community Services. “It not only hurts us but also the Dundas community.”
All organizations said they received short notice in late April from the United Way that their funding didn’t meet the organization’s criteria and it would end.
“It was disappointing,” said Karen Thomson, executive director of the Glanbrook Home Support Program.
Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge said there is now no agency or organization in the Flamborough community that is funded by the United Way, yet groups continue to raise money for the organization.
“It’s unsettling,” she said. “It can happen without any warning. Without us as a safety net they would have to cut programs.”
The city’s grant subcommittee recommended using the City Enrichment Fund to provide the necessary top up funding to those organizations that had their money cut by the United Way for 2018. Hamilton councillors approved the recommendation at their May 9 meeting.
While the organizations are grateful for the city’s assistance, they will have to find other funding options to keep their programs going in 2019 and beyond.
Johnson said depending upon what United Way officials say when they meet with the grant subcommittee June 12, she may still request the city to cut its ties to the United Way.
“I will strongly encourage everyone if you want to stop your donations take the money right to the organization of your choice,” she said.
Hamilton through its payroll deduction campaign in 2017, raised over $140,000 for the United Way.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he was shocked at the United Way’s decision. But he wanted to wait and hear from officials about the reasoning behind the funding cuts.
“They have done a lot of good fundraising work that has benefited organizations in Hamilton,” said Eisenberger. “I’m not ready to castigate them for all that great work.”
Brad Park, chief executive officer and president of the United Way, said last year’s amalgamation of five communities, including Hamilton and Burlington with Halton Hills, Oakville and Milton, disrupted the organization’s fundraising efforts. The group raised just over $10 million, but that money has to be spread over five communities. When it was just the United Way of Greater Hamilton and Burlington, it raised just over $6 million for the two municipalities.
Park also said Hamilton adopted a new funding model, and this year’s donations fell short.
Johnson said Park contacted her about the issue, but she encouraged him to speak to the entire grants subcommittee and explain the reasoning behind the funding reductions.
“The primary purpose for amalgamation was to position the organization to do better for the more than 200,000 people and the 100 agencies and programs that rely on us,” said Park. “While it wasn’t as smooth as we had hoped we were able to set and achieve a significant fundraising target across all communities.”
Park said Halton organizations also saw funding cuts this year.
“The competition for dollars is high,” he said.