BGCA Struggling

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Late last month, AS Today had a chance to speak with Kevin McCartney, who heads government relations for the Atlanta-based Boys & Girls Clubs of America. BGCA, as everyone knows, is a behemoth of the after-school industry that has for decades been adept at drawing support from corporate America and all levels of government.

But none of that is keeping them from feeling the same pain as the mom and pop programs now, McCartney acknowledged. "Generally speaking," he said, "our clubs are suffering."

Some clubs are getting it coming and going, he said, facing an increased demand for services meeting a decrease in contribution. "Many [clubs] are having to reduce hours, lay off staff, cut back on services. They're doing everything they can to try and survive."

The biggest stall in resources for BGCA is likely the state funding that comes in through its state alliances. Funding in 2008 remained flat from 2007, McCartney said, after significant annual growth during this decade. Budget constraints have forced states including Massachusetts and Florida to reduce contracts with their state alliances.

At the federal level, BGCA no longer enjoys the virtual certainty of an earmark. In 2006, it got $85 million in that fashion. In 2007, of course, nobody received earmarks (well, until OJJDP Administrator Bob Flores decided essentially to do his own version of that dance). BGCA still landed $60 million, which it was directed to split with FirstPic, a Maryland consulting firm that specializes in starting up and enhancing programs in Native American communities.

Now, BGCA has to compete for its funds within the juvenile mentoring stream, which jumped from $10 million in 2007 to $72 million last year and is poised to hit $82 million for 2009. OJJDP gave $40 million to the clubs in 2008.

Compete is a strong word; the reality is that only a handful of organizations could carry out the widespread provision of services mandated by the juvenile mentoring fund. It's not a matter of whether the organization will get funded, just how much it will get.

McCartney also has his eye on stimulus money for the clubs. One possibility is the $5 billion contingency fund for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a pot of money BGCA's state alliances have tapped successfully in the past. Another is AmeriCorps, which got a $160 stimulus boost. McCartney envisions AmeriCorps volunteers filling a portion of the staff shortages brought on by necessary layoffs at some clubs. Indiana's alliance already has such an arrangement with AmeriCorps.