WBDC loses Stamford's community block grant funding
Tight money: City faces increased requests, diminished pot
Updated 11:57 am, Friday, June 24, 2011
A Stamford-based nonprofit organization that has served entrepreneurs and fledgling small businesses in much of Fairfield County for 14 years will be providing its programs in 2011-2012 with no funding from the city where it's headquartered.
The head of the Women's Business Development Center is questioning why, for the first time in 12 years, the organization was shut out from the federal community block grant program, which is administered by the city. Last year, the allocation from Stamford was reduced to $15,000 from as much as $25,000 that had been granted in prior years.
The WBDC received a letter last month from Timothy Beeble, the city's community development director, stating that its block grant funding from the U.S. government had been cut 17 percent to $1.04 million from the 2010-2011 level, while requests totaled more than twice that amount.
Beeble was unavailable for comment Thursday, but Karen Cammarota, grants officer for the city, said he and the Housing, Community Development and Social Services Committee were confronted with a difficult task.
"It was a committee process, and they submitted their recommendations to the mayor," said Cammarota, who would not comment on individual applications.
Losing the funding is a blow to the budget of the WBDC as well as its psyche, according to Fran Pastore, the organization's executive officer, who noted its leadership role in developing Mayor Michael Pavia's Small Business Initiative, which hosts education sessions for small business owners.
"I have not had the opportunity to speak with Mayor Pavia about the important work of the WBDC and its impact on entrepreneurs and small businesses in the Stamford community," said Pastore, whose organization counseled 1,200 clients in 2010 and helped launch 120 businesses.
Peg Sheahan, an attorney who is chairwoman of the WBDC's government relations committee, was more direct.
"It's disheartening because this is a program that really works. We turn people into taxpayers. The programs work and they are really in jeopardy," she said.
Founded by Pastore, the program operates with a $1 million budget, serving clients throughout much of Fairfield County as well as New Haven.
"We will do what we always do -- apply for whatever funding is available. We receive about 40 grants from all sources," she said, adding that 60 percent of its funding comes from private sources and 40 percent from federal, state and local governments. "We'll try again next year for the city grant. This is a big deal for us. Nobody does what we do."
Pastore is hoping to have better luck with Fairfield officials, where the WBDC received $5,000 in funding for 2010-2011 and has applied for another $5,000.
"We're in the review process now," said Joyce Barnes, grants coordinator for Fairfield.
The WBDC's classes, from starting a business to personal credit to getting ready for the tax season, are well attended in Fairfield, she said.
The nonprofit also receives funding through the same federal program from the city of Norwalk, which reduced the allocation to $15,000 for the upcoming year from $20,000, Pastore said.