State Senator Tony Avella was joined by elected officials, community board members, and representatives of dozens of community groups at a rally on the steps of Queens Borough Hall in support of legislation he introduced in the State Senate that would create a new lottery scratch-off game whose proceeds would be strictly dedicated to a new Community Grant Fund.
Community groups included senior centers, veterans groups, youth sports programs, and historic preservation groups.
Since 2010, the executive branch of the state has eliminated discretionary funds that could be used to fund local programs in legislators’ districts. The loss of these funds has placed tremendous financial burden on local groups that have relied on this supportive funding to provide vital community programs to the state’s residents.
Governor Andrew Cuomo eliminated the members items due to recent scandals where the money was misused by elected officials, funneling the money to sham non-profits in an effort to misappropriate taxpayer funds.
This loss is on top of already draconian budget cuts that occurred in 2011 and the loss of private funding sources that began to disappear as a result of the national economic crises in 2008.
“Youth groups, senior centers, cultural organizations and little leagues provide essential services and rely on discretionary funding to survive,” said Avella. “These groups certainly are not pork.”
According to Avella, community programs have been left in the cold in their efforts to provide educational, recreational, cultural and senior programs to communities that have relied on those services for years.
Those programs and services include senior centers, youth sports programs, after-school programs and many other community-based programs.
In fact, according to Avella, many of these groups will be forced to close their programs after many years of service to the community.
For example, without additional funding, the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Community Center, which has provided essential services to the seniors of Whitestone for over 25 years, will be forced to close next year.
"In these tough financial times, we have to look outside the box to create new sources of revenue to help our community-based, nonprofit organizations that are struggling to keep their doors open," said Assemblyman David Weprin.
Jim Trent, president of the Queens County Farm Museum, said that the many non-profit organizations that he is involved with are feeling the pinch.
“I am involved with numerous not-for-profit organizations, and one has already been dissolved after 35 years, and others are on the ropes,” he said. “There needs to be an acknowledgment by government of the important role not-for-profits play in the life of the community and a strategy designed to keep these groups from folding.”