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Not-for-profits at risk as state funding nears end

Friday, Dec 1, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From a January 2021 press release

Using revenue from adult-use cannabis sales, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) today announced 80 grants totaling $31.5 million to organizations to help the communities hardest hit by the failed war on drugs. The organizations’ work includes violence prevention, legal aid, and re-entry services.

The grants are part of the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program, which was created as a key equity element of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA), signed by Governor Pritzker in 2019. The law requires that 25 percent of all cannabis revenue be used to support communities impacted by economic disinvestment, violence, and the severe and disproportionate damage caused by the war on drugs, largely and disproportionately impacted low income Illinoisans and communities of color.

Awardees include nonprofit organizations, local units of government, tax-exempt faith-based organizations, businesses, and other community organizations that serve residents of—or are based in—designated eligible R3 zones.

That first round of funding was known as Cohort 1. The funding for Cohort 1 will end in January. Cohort 2 was started in July of 2022, and it will run through June of 2025.

But if you are one of those initial 80 grant recipients and you didn’t make it into Cohort 2, or have programs that aren’t funded by Cohort 2, then you’re gonna have to wait until at least the fall of next year to apply for the third round of state grants.

* The Children’s Place Association is one of those groups. Here’s Cinaiya Stubbs, the association’s CEO…

The decision by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to close out cannabis-funded, anti-violence programs on January 31, 2024 – without the next round of funding in place until fall 2024 at the earliest – for the 1st cohort of community providers, such as The Children’s Place Association, means that, for example, the care we provide to more than 90 youth ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade, and 15 community families in and around Humboldt Park will abruptly end and some staff will need to be let go.

The better decision by ICJIA would have been to have a “funding bridge” in place to prevent the interruption of services to families across Illinois and loss of valuable staff who may never return.

That last sentence is important. As we saw during the turbulent Rauner era, once service providers fully or partially shut down and lay off workers, it’s super difficult to build those groups back up again. This is literally human services infrastructure, and it can’t be replaced nearly as easily as physical infrastructure like a damaged bridge.

* Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton chairs the R3 board. So I asked her office for comment…

While Cohort 1 funding period is ending after 3 years in compliance Grant Accountability and Transparency Act, Cohort 2 continues to provide $133 million in programming in R3-eligible areas throughout Illinois. Those funds won’t expire until July 2025 and will again overlap with future Cohort grant cycles. Qualifying Cohort 1 grantees may apply for future R3 funds and any other ICJIA-administered state violence prevention grants.

The R3 program is designed to create a pathway to funding for qualifying grassroots community organizations in a process that is fair and equitable. Grants are awarded via a competitive process to ensure funding is available and accessible in each R3 area.

It’s our goal to ensure that communities throughout the state that have been disproportionally impacted by the war on drugs can have equitable access to R3 grants. We will continue to collaborate with ICJIA and continue to invest in the people and communities of Illinois.

Cold comfort to the groups that are losing out.

       

25 Comments
  1. - charles in charge - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 9:45 am:

    It continues to drive me nuts that our elected officials continue to talk about helping “communities disproportionally impacted by the war on drugs” as though the war on drugs is somehow a thing of the past just because we’ve legalized cannabis. If we are acknowledging that the war has failed and has harmed our communities, then let’s take the necessary steps to actually end it. Otherwise R3 will never be anything but a band-aid on a gaping wound–inflicting harm with one hand and trying in vain to repair it with the other.


  2. - Change Agent - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 9:56 am:

    To continue CIC’s metaphor, if R3 is going to be implemented in such a nonsensical way, it’s as if the R3 band-aid is soaked in bacteria before being applied to the gaping wound. The end of these programs - in which trust has been built and on which people depend - and the layoffs of their staff do real and lasting damage to the communities that have already been harmed the most. Get it together, ICJIA.


  3. - Honeybear - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 10:18 am:

    Truth. Social services are still totally understaffed. Even the loss of one employee can be catastrophic. Non for profit work is super emotionally demanding. It’s so hard to attract employees when the pay doesn’t come along with the difficulty


  4. - Ron - In Texas - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 10:23 am:

    @Charles…

    Was just thinking the same thing. I hear politicians, policy people, OGAs, etc always say “failed war on drugs”.

    Ok, we are going to say something failed then why do we keep doing it.


  5. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 10:30 am:

    Let’s get back on topic, please.


  6. - Honeybear - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 10:35 am:

    The other factor is that Rauner introduced tremendous instability into working for nfp. Full timers that came on decades ago and worked their way up to a decent salary were lost in the budget crisis Rauner caused. These folks by and large have never been replaced because the starting salary is so low and often requires advanced degrees. You can’t blame an MSW for not taking a 35k a year job.


  7. - King Louis XVI - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 10:42 am:

    Good grief.

    Had ICJIA had the presence of mind to plan ahead – and if Stratton cared enough to push them – the pending implosion of anti-violence programs could have been avoided.


  8. - Politix - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 10:48 am:

    ++the pending implosion of anti-violence programs++

    Take a breath. Sheesh.

    There are other organizations in R3 areas (impacted by poverty, gun violence, economic disinvestment and over-incarceration) across Illinois that also need access to R3 funding. That’s the equity and inclusion part of the program.

    Continually funding the same programs with no chance for others is reminiscent of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

    You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


  9. - H-W - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 10:49 am:

    I do not pretend to understand government grant funding. The only grants I have received were for one-time studies designed to assist the agent/agency providing the funds to evaluate their products/programs.

    In Higher Ed however, many of my colleagues have sought federal and philanthropic grants. Many grants to which we apply require a statement indicating how if a grant is awarded, their use will lead to a self-sustaining model once the grant ends.

    Sustainability seems to be a missing aspect in the ICJIA grants, which if true, is very problematic. It appears this program is only intended to offer short-term infusions of cash. In Sociology, this is considered an unethical model.


  10. - Friendly Bob Adams - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 10:51 am:

    It’s silly to cite GATA as if it was sent down from the mountain carved in stone. If there is a provision in GATA preventing funds from going where they are needed, then change it.


  11. - Honeybear - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 10:52 am:

    Sorry to post so much but this is something I’m passionate about.
    I also fault democrats for setting up the funding mechanisms like this. To me it proves that caring the poor and underprivileged is a perfidy.
    Only “Gala and Ball” nfp’s really benefit because only they can afford to hire Grant Writers at a salary that gets applicants.
    Mom and Pop social services are barely holding on while the Ball, Gala and silent auction set rake in the funds.
    This allows the privileged to again enjoy the privilege of being seen to be philanthropic.
    That being said, bigger organizations like LSS and United Way still help fund the mom and pops. Thank God for them. But still too many mom and pops are hurting


  12. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 10:53 am:

    ===Continually funding the same programs with no chance for others===

    Who said that? Don’t twist words. Also, cutting off funding even if programs work is just downright stupid.


  13. - thisjustinagain - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 11:02 am:

    Once again an Illinois state agency fails the people it is allegedly trying to help by randomly making decisions that will wipe out some of the R3 programs.
    Great job, ICJIA. Fabulous work.


  14. - Do no harm - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 11:09 am:

    The R3 board needs to prioritize a NOFO asap and fix the harm they are causing to programs and communities. There is no reason, sitting on a pile of tax money, not to have a prompt grant competition in January. It’s unconscionable to drag out funding until fall and have program close and try to reopen.


  15. - Andrea Durbin - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 12:00 pm:

    This is a big problem and bridge funding is an obvious solution here. As we saw during the budget impasse and its aftermath, it is so easy to shut things down, and it takes a lot of effort to rebuild. The damage ripples out for years, including lost trust between the community being served and the organizations serving them, lost relationships between staff and clients, increased financial instability and unpredictability for the community organization, loss of staff with experience and system knowledge, and the list goes on. Illinois needs to be a better partner with the communities and organizations it wants to serve.


  16. - Logic - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 12:42 pm:

    I understand the Grant cycles and giving opportunities to others to apply for and receive funding but for those organizations that are working within the schools (with children) under this grant can anyone explain why it makes sense to cut them off in the middle of the school year? Why wouldn’t we give “bridge-funding” to close out the school year? The way they’re doing it now is cutting these valuable services away from students as soon as they come back from Christmas break. What good does this do for our communities?


  17. - Me. - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 1:29 pm:

    Don’t ask the Lt. Gov. She’s been to one ICJIA meeting in 3 years. Dr. David Olsen is the new Chair of the Board. A respected and credentialed researcher from Loyola. He’s not an elected politician. ICJIA has rules and meetings. Come to them. Grant funding has rules. ICIJIA cannot change them on a whim. Each and every grantee was told three years ago not to plan on getting re-upped. Because things like this can and do happen. ICIJA has outreach to these grantees and lines open every single work day. Please do not think they were T-boned on their blind side by this. That’s demonstrably false. ICJIIA staff is full of answers. Go ask them. Please.


  18. - Random - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 1:30 pm:

    Program has been going for 3 fiscal years now. Per GATA guidelines, awarded agencies can get a renewal up to 2 years (for a total of 3 years under the same contract) and then they have to do a NOFO again so agencies can apply for funding again. Should ICJIA start this process earlier to avoid a gap in funding? Yes, but this should has been expected by the organizations for awhile now


  19. - H-W - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 1:33 pm:

    @Honeybear

    If I might disagree? I think the problem is broader that party. I think the issue is one of clarity regarding funding timetables on both sides of the equation (recipients and funders).

    Unless a fund is intended to be ongoing (long- and short-term), the assumption should be there is no long-term funding. Those providing must be clear, and the recipients must acknowledge that reality in accepting the funds.

    In Higher Ed writ-large, this is achieved with a spending plan prior to receipt that transcends the life of the grant. This compels long-term planning beyond the life of the grant.

    One the provider side, grants must clearly indicate the funds are non-renewable, short-term grants. Regarding the State, ongoing grants imply forthcoming revenue streams. If that is not the case the State should be crystal clear upfront, not later. To not state so upfront and clearly contributes to unnecessary future harm, as this story clearly shows.


  20. - H-W - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 1:39 pm:

    @Andrea Durbin

    Bridge to when though, right? If longer term, when? If ongoing, where shall the long-term funds originate in the annual budget?

    You are absolutely right this is a real, human-made mess. And like you, Do No Harm, Honeybear and so many others suggest, I agree the issue is real, personal, and bigger than this one grant. We need to solve (not simply resolve) this issue.


  21. - H-W - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 2:00 pm:

    @Me.

    Thanks for the information about forewarning in the original granting process. It seems to suggest schools would have clearly know as school districts often have a grant writer who would have known these are intended to be short-term loans.

    However many non-profits (I worked for one a couple years between degrees) are simply not able to employ grant writers. It sounds like in this case, there may not have been enough clarity among some recipients. That sucks and I am not sure how this can be resolved without tapping into additional funds that are not targeted to fix such problems (e.g., “rainy day holiday season funds”)?


  22. - Change Agent - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 3:37 pm:

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting that these organizations should have been guaranteed continued funding. A new competitive NOFO with funding picking up where this cycle left off would have been great. The law was written so that a significant portion of cannabis tax revenue would go directly to these critical services - that distribution shouldn’t be hampered by lack of foresight or planning on ICJIA’s part.


  23. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 3:47 pm:

    ===Because things like this can and do happen===

    Thanks, Bruce.

    The problem with your entire comment is that it shows y’all don’t actually care about the mission.


  24. - So no harm - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 5:47 pm:

    There is clearly never a guarantee in funding but when there is money set aside for these programs from marijuana tax revenue coming in- what is the purpose in disrupting service/programs/staff? There hasn’t been a disruption in marijuana sales!


  25. - Fair process - Friday, Dec 1, 23 @ 5:50 pm:

    To those stating other organizations should be considered for funding…yes, that is what a fair grant process would accomplish. The R3 board needs to move on that- and folks would be happy to come to meetings if one was listed on their website under “upcoming.”


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