Who are the beneficiaries of non-profits supposed to be? I'll bet the donors thought they were helping the disabled.
Disabled community questions pay bonuses during crisis
By GARANCE BURKE - Associated Press
July 7, 2009
FRESNO ---- Advocates for the developmentally disabled railed Tuesday against a California nonprofit's decision to pay its staff half a million dollars in taxpayer-funded bonuses even as the state's fiscal crisis threatens the services they manage.
The Fresno-based Central Valley Regional Center coordinates training and support for 230,000 people with mental disabilities through a contract with the state Department of Developmental Services.
Last week, center officials sent out $500,000 in state funds to its 350 employees. Executive Director Robert Riddick said giving an extra $1,400 to each staffer will help retain social workers as the recession worsens.
But Democratic Sen. Dean Florez and others said that money should have been spent to protect services essential to people with autism and cerebral palsy, or be returned to the state.
"We're not saying that their staff don't deserve raises ---- our staffers would love a raise, too," said Ron Killingsworth, who represents the Central Valley Caucus of the California Disability Services Association. "But to spend half a million dollars on employee bonuses when we're facing huge cuts to programs for the developmentally disabled? We just don't understand."
California contracts with 21 regional centers across the state that provide everything from job training to physical therapy to specialized education for developmentally disabled people.
But in February, when the Legislature failed to pass a plan to fix California's budget deficit, all regional centers were forced to trim 3 percent from their own budgets.
The governor's latest budget proposal forecasts an additional $234 million in cuts for the fiscal year that began Wednesday.
Because the Fresno nonprofit managed to lower its costs without affecting client care, board members voted in June to use the $500,000 left over in last year's operations budget to give staffers a one-time salary adjustment, Riddick said.
"The board knew full well that our clients were taken care of, so they turned to the future of our 350 employees and the increased health care costs they'll be facing," Riddick said. "Also, we don't have a severance package for people, and we know there are tough times ahead."
[Maura Larkins' comment: Then why didn't you come up with a severance package? Don't use that as an excuse to give money to employees who will be kept on.]
Still, company officials at Visalia-based Able Industries, which trains developmentally disabled people to work, said they feared the next wave of budget cuts could force them to scale back their direct services.
If that happens, relatives of people with developmental disabilities said the impact could be devastating.
"They're giving their employees bonuses at a time when the disability community doesn't know if they're going to have a safety net at the end of the week," said Chuck Genseal of Madera, whose 9-year-old granddaughter has autism, and learned to communicate through pictures because of behavioral services coordinated through the nonprofit. "They should have turned that money back to the state of California."