Axe hitting non-profits in Central Alberta

Non-profit agencies must adjust to the cancellation of the two provincial funding programs — Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) and the Community Spirit Grant.

Non-profit agencies must adjust to the cancellation of the two provincial funding programs — Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) and the Community Spirit Grant.

Both the employment program that helped pay students’ salaries and the grant program that matched donations organizations collected from the community were chopped from last week’s provincial budget.

In 2012, STEP had a budget of $7.1 million and created over 3,000 jobs with about 2,500 organizations across Alberta. The Community Spirit Grant had $15.5 million.

Robert Mitchell, CEO of United Way of Central Alberta, said the loss of STEP will put more pressure on the federal government’s employment program Canada Summer Jobs next year.

Applications for the federal program were due at the end of February so it’s too late to apply to get workers for this summer.

“It’s tough to say how wide the consequence will be. But for some it will be quite significant,” Mitchell said on Tuesday.

“Every not-for-profit has a finite budget so stretching that a little further with something like the STEP grant is obviously very helpful.”

Jennifer Vanderschaeghe, executive director for Central Alberta AIDS Network Society, predicted the end of STEP when the usual application deadline passed quietly at the end of February without a provincial funding announcement.

“We applied to Canada Summer Jobs. Our hope is our application for those two students is funded. If we don’t get that funding, we won’t have students this year which might be the first time ever we don’t have students,” Vanderschaeghe said.

“It’s frightening.”

Community Spirit Grant matched a maximum of $25,000, with total grants not to exceed $50,000 over three years.

For 2011/12, organizations in Red Deer received about $432,000. Both the United Way of Central Alberta and Red Deer Hospice Society got the $25,000 maximum.

Mitchell said some organizations would have counted on getting the grant, depending on whether they hit the three-year maximum.

Last year the United Way used the money to help pay for technology upgrades.

Brenda Watts, executive director of Red Deer Hospice Society, said the loss of the grant will be felt.

“We’re going to miss it. I thought it was a great initiative that the government brought on to encourage Albertans to donate to not-for-profits because their donations could essentially be doubled,” Watts said.

“We were able to put those dollars towards our general day-to-day operating budget. That’s the hard part. To raise the money for operations. We have our power bill, our gas bill, our city water and sewer bill.”

The hospice society will be depending on citizens to be generous in the future, she said.

The Alberta Liberals are calling for the PC government to restore STEP. They say since 1972, STEP has helped students gain valuable organizational, communications, and leadership skills. It benefited lower-income Albertans who use non-profit services and assisted small businesses who relied on the program to hire summer workers.

Contact McLeod at 403-748-3032 or mcleodbs@xplorenet.com for more information on Sylvan Lake Special Needs Support Group.

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