Tuesday, January 15, 2002

CAN lacks financial direction

Programs' funding not organized yet

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Money continues to be the question coloring what Cincinnati Community Action Now is planning, its leaders acknowledged Monday.

        How much is needed, where it will come from and who gets to spend it are all questions that still have to be worked out for most of Cin cinnati CAN's initiatives, said Ross Love, co-chair of the race relations panel.

        However, some funds have been found. A foundation, whose leader wishes it to remain anonymous, has promised to pay the $30,000 annual cost of CAN's Reach Out and Read Program for its first five years. The program puts books into the hands of young mothers to encourage reading to their infant children.

        Also, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation has pledged $250,000 in funding, but CAN leaders have yet to choose how to use it.

        Beth Reiter, a foundation spokeswoman, said all CAN leaders have to do is identify a program or programs they wish to implement and then apply for the funds. The foundation's strategic initiative committee will review the application and then forward it to the board of directors for approval.

        Mr. Love said CAN leaders have not chosen any specific programs to use the money on yet, but as many as 12 are under consideration.

        In the next two weeks, he predicted, CAN members will be securing money for some of the group's housing initiatives, and in four weeks, he said, money will be set for some of its police-community programs.

        A key to obtaining funds, Mr. Love added, is to avoid “reinventing the wheel.” Much of CAN's action plans involve expanding or further developing existing community programs.

        “The basic principle is,

        wherever possible, we want to use programs proven successful, whether in Cincinnati or other cities. ... We want to house these programs in existing organizations that have both the credibility and experience to do them well.”

        Existing entrepreneurial training programs, like the ones offered by the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce, and business support entities like the Cincinnati Business Incubator, could be expanded with CAN's help, said DeAsa Nichols, a committee member and chamber leader.

        “There are existing organizations already in place that have not had adequate funding,” she said.

        For instance, she said, the chamber trains young business owners and assists in developing their business plans, but it can't directly help them obtain business loans from banks. CAN is trying to open avenues with banks for more loans to small, minority- owned, and women-owned businesses, she said.

        Despite continuing negotiations, there are as yet no firm commitments to concentrate on lending to such disadvantaged businesses.

        “We've been in discussions with two key banks, but I'm not satisfied with the progress of that,” she said.

        CAN's leaders also need to map out funding for its plan to provide transportation for inner-city residents working at jobs in the suburbs. Officials of Metro say only about 15 percent of the region's jobs are downtown, and a mechanism needs to be in place to reach the other 85 percent.

        “Basically, if you don't have your own car, you are cut off from where the most jobs are,” said Sally Hilvers, a Metro spokeswoman. “Transportation is the link.”

        Job Bus — the Metro reverse-commute program that brought Cincinnatians to jobs in the suburbs — was scaled back in Warren County and eliminated in Butler County this month after federal money dried up.

        Job Bus' three daily runs from Cincinnati to Warren, Butler and Clermont counties cost almost $2 million last year, half from local governments.

        CAN and Metro are teaming up with employers in the suburbs to find ways to fill the kitty for a refined version of Job Bus, one that targets specific housing clusters in the city and clusters of jobs in the suburbs.


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