Groups ‘suffering’ due to gaming grant changes

Local charities and non-profit organizations are on tenterhooks as they wait to see how changes announced in last year’s budget by the B.C. Solicitor General’s ministry could affect them.

  • Jan. 25, 2011 5:00 a.m.
Lorraine Levitt

Lorraine Levitt

Local charities and non-profit organizations are on tenterhooks as they wait to see how changes announced in last year’s budget by the B.C. Solicitor General’s ministry could affect them.

The extent of their anxiety was apparent Thursday morning when as many as 12 groups that provide a range of services to the community such as kids athletics, environment, arts and culture and social services met with Cariboo North Independent MLA Bob Simpson.

Their concerns rest on the ministry’s move to shorten the length of funding terms from three years to one year; excluding certain groups from funding and cutting funding for other groups; a general lack of clarity; as well as gaming application and reward dates so far apart that leave some organizations without critical funding for a significant period.

According to Susan Marsden, president of the British Columbia Association for Charitable Gaming, adult sports, environmental, museum, adult arts and culture groups and festivals have been cut 100 per cent; service organizations have been cut 50 per cent.

“They’ve disentitled a number of sectors and changed the scheduling so that many other groups are suffering,” she says.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Williams Lake is one such organization. Lorraine Levitt, executive director at BBBS, depends on the proceeds of gaming. Forty per cent of her organization’s $194,000 budget comes from gaming.

What is worrying for Levitt is that her organization’s funding runs out in March and it is not eligible to apply for new funding until August. If her application is successful, she will have to wait until February 2011 to receive any money. That means 11 months without gaming funding.

“We don’t know what we’ll do. We’re coming to the conclusion that our options are to cut staff, terminate match relationships and put the case worker on half time or completely terminate the position,” she says.

Levitt is also unsure as to whether to go ahead with a spring volunteer recruitment campaign. The government has said that transition funding may be available but that is far from certain in Levitt’s mind.

In the past Big Brothers was the beneficiary of three-year funding cycles that provided stability and enabled staff to better plan for the future; its funding didn’t increase each cycle but it didn’t decrease either.

“We could plan ahead. The funding was secure and it helped leverage other funding. Other businesses or corporations felt safe putting their funds forward to secure programs.” Levitt is afraid that with the move towards one-year contracts that security and perhaps money could disappear.

On the ground, this could mean the youth the organization helps through both its traditional and in-school mentoring programs might be in jeopardy. BBBS provides positive influences in the lives of youth who many not have that.

“Many of these relationships are life changing to kids, which directly impacts our community. It’s really bad,” she says of the gaming changes.

Sue Hemphill, environmental educator at the Scout Island Nature Centre, finds herself in a different predicament.

Under the changes, environmental groups have been excluded from receiving gaming proceeds.