County Weighs Changes to Coordinated Funding

On an 8-1 vote, Washtenaw County commissioners has given initial approval to an extension of the coordinated funding approach for human services, as well as to some changes in that funding model. The action occurred at the county board’s Oct. 16, 2013 meeting, with Dan Smith (R-District 2) casting the dissenting vote.

No dollar amounts were allocated, but the resolution would authorize the allocation of children’s well-being and human services funding for 2014 through 2016. It would authorize the continued management of those funds through the county’s office of community & economic development, using the coordinated funding approach – with some modifications.

The county is one of five partners in the coordinated funding approach. Other partners are city of Ann Arbor, United Way of Washtenaw County, Washtenaw Urban County, and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. It began as a pilot program in 2010; this is the second time that the program has been extended.

The coordinated funding process has three parts: planning/coordination, program operations, and capacity-building. The approach targets six priority areas, and identifies lead agencies for each area: (1) housing and homelessness – Washtenaw Housing Alliance; (2) aging – Blueprint for Aging; (3) school-aged youth – Washtenaw Alliance for Children and Youth; (4) children birth to six – Success by Six; (5) health – Washtenaw Health Plan; and (6) hunger relief – Food Gatherers.

Last year, TCC Group – a consulting firm based in Philadelphia – was hired to evaluate the process. As a result of that review, several changes were recommended. Those recommendations will also be authorized as part of the county board’s overall coordinated funding resolution, as described in a staff memo:

The County’s Human Services and Children’s Well-being funding will continue to focus on critical services for early childhood, aging, housing/homelessness, safety net health, school-aged children and youth, and food security/hunger relief. Under this proposal, this funding will not necessarily be allocated to these six priority areas in proportional amounts consistent with historic trends. Allocations to these six priority areas will be based on identified community-level outcomes, the strategies that align with them, and how each are prioritized.

1) Under this proposal, the application pre-screening process will be broadened to better accommodate smaller non-profit organizations. New types of financial documentation will allow smaller agencies to illustrate their viability in the absence of an independent audit. 2) Capacity-building grants would be available to target smaller agencies that need to improve their governance or financial structure to be eligible for the application process, with the goal of expanding the opportunities for all agencies providing human services in the County in an equitable fashion.

Recommendations for specific funding allocations will be made to the county board in April 2014, for funding to start on July 1, 2014. In addition, the RNR Foundation – a family foundation that funded TCC Group’s evaluation of the coordinated funding approach – will now be an additional funder in this process.

During a discussion on this item at the county board’s Oct. 16 meeting, some commissioners expressed concern about controlling the allocation process related to the county’s contribution. Mary Jo Callan, director of the office of community & economic development, reported that she’d be bringing back recommendations to the board for approval, prior to any allocation of funding. This has also been the process in previous years.

A final vote is expected on Nov. 6.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor, where the board of commissioners holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]