Our economy is in trouble. Consumer goods prices – gas, food, and other necessities – have gone up significantly. Folks are losing their homes. Businesses are closing. And those least able to deal with economic hardship – the elderly, children, disabled, and others – and the agencies/service providers that form a safety net for them are at risk.
Local organizations and nonprofits have seen a sharp increase in demand for services compounded by the state budget impasse. Dependent on state and federal funds and grants, many agencies have taken on loans, laid off staff and reduced wages, cut services, and some have closed temporarily.
With the signing of the state budget, funding will once again flow. But the budget as signed includes cuts in funding for many critical services and doesn’t fix the structural problems that were major contributors to a $15 billion shortfall this year. Grim warnings about next year are emanating from Sacramento. This is cause for concern, but when you add the proposed $700 billion federal bailout for Wall Street, it could get much worse here at home.
At a recent meeting of the YES Partnership (a multi-agency effort to deal with youth suicide and related issues), a broad array of local government and nonprofit services representatives realized a contingency plan to fill inevitable funding gaps is critically important. We need to look at the ways we already function independently and collaboratively and determine how to function even more efficiently together.
So leaders from the county, nonprofit, agency, school, and faith-based communities are exploring new ways to meet the critical needs of these at risk Tuolumne County residents in the short and long term. We don’t know how it can be done, but we have to try. It will take determined focus, patience, and the hard work of many, many people.
Tuolumne County residents are courageous, compassionate, and community-minded. When we see someone in need and can help, we do. We’ll do it together.