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Friday, September 26, 2008

Still No Funding For AIDS Agencies

Posted By on Fri, Sep 26, 2008 at 10:21 PM

According to a City Hall spokesperson, the City still hasn’t executed any of the contracts for funding local HIV/AIDS agencies.

     As Gambit Weekly first pointed out in August (“What’s in Their Wallets?” ),   the city annually receives federal monies to fund local agencies that assist the 4,144 people living with HIV/AIDS in the New Orleans area. The fiscal year for this funding began in March with New Orleans receiving just over $7 million for primary care and support services. At this point, local AIDS/HIV agencies have gone almost seven months without any financial reimbursement. One local agency, In This Together, was paying its employees with personal credit card loans, and was eventually forced to stop providing case management services for clients.

      Now it appears another agency, N’R Peace, which primarily focuses on poor African American s, is headed in a similar direction.

N’R Peace’s executive director Demitre Blutcher says she is filling out paperwork to get her agency a line of credit in order to pay her employees. She is putting up a piece of her own personal property as collateral on the credit line. Blutcher says that the city’s Office of Health Policy and AIDS Funding (OHP) contacted her two weeks ago, saying she didn’t have the proper paperwork filed, so they couldn’t issue her a contract. Blutcher, who has run the agency for the past 11 years, has never experienced these kinds of contract problems.

     “I think they’re actually trying to deny me because of all this. Because I did the article in the paper,” Blutcher says, adding that her signed contract is now with OHP.

     The City Council’s Committee on Government Affairs was supposed to hold a hearing on these concerns in early September, but due to the Hurricane Gustav evacuation, the meeting never took place. Joan Hickson, Councilman Fielkow’s chief of staff, says the matter has been transferred to Committee on Housing and Human Needs.

     To date, the committee has not put the issue on its agenda.

     As for City Hall, Nagin spokesperson James Ross writes in an email:

Two (contracts) have not been received back from sub-recipients and, as a result, have not been routed. Five of the contracts are awaiting final signatures and should be fully executed within the next few days. The remainder of the contracts [is] in the final stages of the routing process.”



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