Semcac faces cut to senior services

Published 9:20 am Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A budget proposal by President Barack Obama could potentially include a 50 percent cut to a federal Semcac grant, which provides senior services programs, homelessness assistance programs and translation services, in seven southeastern Minnesota counties, including Freeborn County.

Semcac Executive Director Wayne Stenberg said Semcac, a nonprofit agency, typically receives a $651,000 Community Service Block Grant from the federal government; however, what the president has proposed would limit that down to $325,000.

State grant money that goes toward the programs is also on the table, facing potential cuts, Stenberg added.

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He said the proposals come as there has been a 56 percent increase in the number of people in the area struggling from tough economic circumstances since 2000.

More than 24,200 people in Semcac’s service area are struggling to get by on incomes of less than $10,000 for an individual or $22,000 for a family of four, he said. Losing funding would reduce Semcac’s ability to provide economic

opportunities for people in need.

“All of those things are affected in some way or another,” Stenberg said. “We as an agency will have to look at the cuts to decide which programs have to go and which ones have to stay because something has to give at one point.”

There may even be a possibility of some of the organization’s contact centers closing. The contact centers are the local Semcac facilities in each of the counties where people can go to learn about the different services the organization provides.

“It would be harder to reach the community,” Stenberg said.

According to a news release, Semcac has operated in the area communities for 45 years. In the agency’s most recent fiscal year, 2.7 percent of expenditures were for administration or fundraising, while 97.3 percent of expenditures were for program services.

Stenberg said until a decision is finalized, all of the programs will carry forward as usual.

Other programs in the service area included in the funding are area household budgeting and financial literacy education and programs for crisis financial assistance, among others.

Semcac is based in Rushford with other locations in Freebon, Dodge, Fillmore, Houston, Mower, Steele, Winona and Freeborn counties.