Non-profit losing Savannah fund backing concerned over long-term effects

Updated: Dec. 11, 2017 at 9:25 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - We're digging into the continued efforts by Savannah-area non-profits looking to appeal the city for more funding.

This year's application process was much different than in years past. This year, non-profits had to compete with one another and submit applications, which many found difficult when it came to meeting the criteria expected by the city.

The new process was meant to take the emotion out of the selection process and allow staff and appointed committees to objectively look at each applicant to decide where the city will invest the hundreds of thousands of dollars set aside for the Community Partnerships Program and Cultural and Arts Investment Program.

"How does it benefit the community the best? Well, we get our staff to do that, because it was a circus last year. It wasn't good," said Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach, following last Thursday's council meeting.

On the Community Partnership side of things, the leaders of those organizations made their case to council last week about either funding reductions or losing it altogether, like the Savannah-Chatham County Fair Housing Council.

"It's just a continuation of perpetual, downhill spiral."

Savannah-Chatham County Fair Housing Council Executive Director Wayne Dawson says reductions of contributions from the city have become regular, but next year, city staff rejected the group's applications and dropped funding altogether. Here's where the issue with de-funding the local fair housing council lies. By accepting millions in Community Development Block Grants from the federal government, the city has the obligation to affirmatively further fair housing. That includes educating people on what their rights are and investigating reports of housing discrimination. What's at stake if the city doesn't hold up their end of the deal, and affirmatively further fair housing, is around $4 million in federal grant money.

"It would be a shame to jeopardize that, and by not affirmatively affirming fair housing, or by allowing us to close our doors, I think it would be tough to sign that certification every year saying we are furthering fair housing and allow Savannah-Chatham County Fair Housing Council to go out of business," Dawson said. "I think there's a credible case to be made that when you certify to the federal government you are furthering fair housing and you allow one of the two organizations serving the whole 159 counties in Georgia to go out of business. I think that's gonna be a tough sell."

A study commissioned by the city seven years ago said the Fair Housing Council should have a minimum budget of $300,000 a year to operate. 
Dawson said he has spoken to the mayor and Alderman Brian Foster following the first budget hearing, both of whom say they're looking at ways to work with the Fair Housing Council on the funding issue.

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