ROCS officials fear dire effects from cutsLAKE ANDES — Federal and state budget cuts are threatening to eliminate services provided to the needy in south-central South Dakota, program officials say.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
LAKE ANDES — Federal and state budget cuts are threatening to eliminate services provided to the needy in south-central South Dakota, program officials say.
As executive director of the Rural Office of Community Services, known as ROCS, in Lake Andes, Debra Cahoy oversees programs that help low-income and elderly residents in 20 counties in south-central South Dakota.
“We’re all facing cuts,” Cahoy said, “but we’re doing the best we can to keep our services out there for our clients.”
Community Services Director Darci Bultje said from October 2009 to September 2010, ROCS served 23,966 people. ROCS has a budget of $6.25 million to cover all its programs for the current funding year, which includes $2 million ROCS received for a program to weatherize homes as part of the federal stimulus plan.
On average, all programs suffered a federal funding cut of about 7 percent for the current funding year, ROCS officials said.
The potential budget cuts for the next funding year have those working at ROCS worried, as they expect further cuts in all programs.
The weatherization program will lose $2 million of its $3 million budget because it will no longer benefit from the federal stimulus money.
The ROCS transit program, which provides transportation to qualifying recipients for doctor’s appointments, work and education, is expected receive less funding from federal and state governments next year.
ROCS also runs a nutrition program that provides meals to those in need, and government funding for that program is also expected to decline.
Bultje said the nutrition program served 188,506 meals from October 2009 to September 2010, and added that if funding is cut, ROCS may not be able to support all the food pantries it currently works with.
According to Cahoy, ROCS used to get about 60 percent of its funds for the nutrition program from federal and state government, but that number is now close to 40 percent.
ROCS has been seeking extra help from the counties it serves to make up for its budget reductions.
“The counties almost always support us and our programs,” Cahoy said, “but the money isn’t always there.”
If the budget situation doesn’t improve, ROCS could resort to more severe options.
“Nobody wants to cut services and nobody wants to cut jobs,” Cahoy said, but she acknowledged it may be necessary in the future if the situation does not improve.
“We’re just trying to fight to keep our services going,” Cahoy said.
Bultje said ROCS is constantly on the lookout for grants to fund programs and cover administrative costs, but is still worried about losing government funding.
“Not very many grants are out there that can match what we get from the government,” Bultje said.