The state has been one to four months late in payments to contract agencies like ComLinks, and that's put the community action organization in a pickle.
ComLinks board President Joe Selenski said the organization has been having a hard time paying its staff and has put on the table the option of shutting down the Malone-based charity that focuses on feeding and housing the poor, and helping people find work.
The board decided Thursday night, though, that the organization would keep going, at least for now.
For the last year or so, ComLinks has been getting close to the end of its options for filling in the gaps between state payments, Selenski said. In the last month, Selenski said a board member had to give a loan to cover the payroll, and in the same month ComLinks maxed out its credit lines and also used the small amount of unrestricted funds it had left for payroll.
"So obviously we can't continue doing this for too long," Selenski said.
ComLinks is already running on an austerity budget and, after years of mismanagement, has finally gotten to a point where each of its programs is operating in the black.
"We're doing that right now probably for the first time in many, many years," Selenski said.
Its programs have been bringing in a surplus of about $3,000 to $5,000 a month. But Selenski said that's too small an amount to have an impact on payroll problems, so it's going to pay back vendors.
He said there's no way to cut down on staffing any more than ComLinks already has.
"There is absolutely no way right now to cut back any more staff than what we have cut back to," Selenski said. "We're at a skeleton crew at all levels."
The ComLinks board met Thursday night with representatives of all the state agencies it works with. The goal of the meeting was to decide whether to either find a way to continue on or to set a long-term date for dissolving ComLinks.
If they decided to dissolve, Selenski said, ComLinks would use the time before the end date to liquidate its assets, catch up on outstanding debts with local vendors and create plans to seamlessly move its services to other agencies and organizations.
But Selenski said the state agencies encouraged them to stay in business, so the board decided to stay open for now, re-evaluating month by month.
The state agencies weren't able to guarantee that their payments would be on time from now on, but they did offer a number of options for the organization to explore to help deal with those funding gaps.
The first suggestion was to renew ties with the national Community Action Partnership, which oversees more than 1,000 comparable agencies across the country.
Selenski said, "We've always been a community action agency, and that seems to have been forgotten" - both by the public and by people within ComLinks ever since the organization dropped "Community Action Agency" from the end of its name.
He noted that the national organization must have experience with other groups like ComLinks that have had the same problems and may have some helpful solutions.
State officials also suggested looking into corporate sponsorships, including the possibility of trust funds that would create a pool for ComLinks and other organizations to dip into while waiting for state funding to come through.
The state representatives also suggested checking to see if United Way could help with funding more than it does now.
"It's a minimal amount right now," Selenski said.
They had some suggestions for boosting ComLinks' local fundraising efforts was well, but Selenski said the organization already does much of what it can do in that area.
Selenski said the ComLinks board is hoping it can start slowly building up the amount of reserve money it has so the organization can start filling in state funding gaps itself.
"We made this decision to continue on month to month, evaluating where we're at based on the optimism and help that we are receiving from our state partners," Selenski said.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or email@example.com.