Albany owes Community House $300K

Queens Community House supporters rally against state and city budget cuts to the Forest Hills nonprofit this summer.
By Anna Gustafson

The state has not come through on hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to Queens Community House, which has severely cramped the Forest Hills-based organization’s cash flow and last week made them delay paying staff, the group’s executive director said.

Queens Community House, which provides such social services as homelessness prevention programs and senior centers for thousands of people throughout the borough, had, like nonprofits throughout New York, themselves paid the money the state normally would have given to them for contracts beginning April 1, when the state was supposed to pass its budget.

New York, however, did not pass a budget until August, after which it began to pay only part of the roughly $750,000 it owed to Queens Community House for contracts for services like homelessness prevention and youth programs.

But state officials still owe the nonprofit $300,000, on which Queens Community House Executive Director Irma Rodriguez said they are dragging their feet.

“When the state passed the budget in August, a lot of people thought that’s great and everything will flow now,” Rodriguez said. “But at that point, the state agencies had a huge backlog of contracts that needed to be completed and registered.”

State officials did not return a request for comment.

While Rodriguez said she expects the state to completely pay the nonprofit the money that is owed, she said the delay has placed financial stress on the organization.

“We just experienced a delayed payroll,” she said. “We had to delay payroll by a day, which is an unreasonable burden on staff. We have staff doing the jobs of two, three people and they’re having to wait to get paid. They have rent to pay.”

Another blow to organizations that have contracts with the state was a bill recently passed by legislators that allows the state to take 1.1 percent of contracts to put into New York’s cash reserve fund, Rodriguez said.

“So they’re taking 1.1 percent from our contracts to keep the state from having its own cash flow problem,” Rodriguez said. “It just seems like they’re smacking us around a lot.”

After waiting on the state to come through with cash for months, Rodriguez said she is getting fed up pretty quickly and is considering whether or not she and other nonprofits may have the grounds upon which to sue the state.

“They’ve gotten all the blood from the stone that they can from us,” Rodriguez said. “We’re running on operations that are very thin, and we don’t have the ability to front the state any more and be the nice guys they take advantage of.”

Queens Community House sustained about $1 million in cuts from the city and state in this year’s budget, bringing its operating budget to $12 million from $13 million.

“There have been cuts to youth services primarily, and we had to close our early childhood center in Forest Hills,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve had to make some cuts in senior services and staffing reductions. We try hard for it not to affect services.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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