Polonians Organized to Minister to Our Community (POMOC) was founded 30 years ago to assist new immigrants adjusting to life in the United State. POMOC (the acronym translates to “help” in Polish) will likely have to close due to city budget cuts.
The nonprofit organization has been able to provide assistance with housing, employment, legal, and senior services thanks to city and state funding, as well as some private donations.
The Department for the Aging (DFTA) has long provided the organization with close to $70,000 annually to operate in Maspeth. This year, however, the contract was terminated after budget cuts at the city level.
According to executive director Ewa Kornacka, city funding makes up a large portion of POMOC's budget, and without those funds, operations at the Maspeth office will have to end.
“This is one of our biggest sources of funds for the Maspeth office,” Kornacka said. “On May 25, I signed the contract. You would think you have that contract and everything should be okay. The following day I received a letter dated May 25 saying the contract has been terminated due to budget cuts in the executive budget.”
According to Kornacka, who’s been involved with POMOC for over 15 years, this is the first time that a contract has been terminated due to executive budget cuts.
“Besides being in total shock,” Kornacka explained, “I think it’s very unprofessional. Obviously, the decision must have been made earlier and having me go in and sign a contract that has already been terminated is not right. It’s neglectful and unfair of the city to do something like that.”
The annual funding from DFTA was used to pay the rent, along with provide food for the pantry at the Maspeth office.
“This is our main office,” she said. “All of our operations are run from Maspeth and if we lose this office, our existence is in jeopardy.”
According to the DFTA, the funding was a stand-alone contract outside the usual funding for senior centers and other core DFTA services. The money is not part of the budget that is currently being negotiated between the mayor and the City Council, so there is no hope that it could possibly be restored.
“In this challenging economic time, the Department for the Aging had to make difficult budget decisions," the spokesperson said in an email. "While the elimination of any service is regrettable, these choices reflect our best efforts to minimize the impact on the greatest number of seniors.”
Kornacka said she is working hard applying to various agencies in the hopes of securing enough funding to keep the agency alive in Maspeth.
“I’m applying for money from non-governmental sources,” Kornacka said. “But, that’s a long process and everyone knows that if you apply to 10 foundations and if one gets back to you, you count yourself lucky. It’s difficult."
While POMOC has satellite offices in Ridgewood and Staten Island, both are small and operate out of donated space. All of the administrative duties are centered in Maspeth.
"As of July 1, I have to sit down with my landlord and explain to him that I can no longer pay rent,” said Kornacka.