Funding local charities considered in city budget

The application process will close in November.

Applications for funding charities in Columbia are currently being considered by City Council.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Columbia’s poverty level was 23.6 percent in 2008-2012, almost 9 percentage points higher than the national average of 15 percent in 2012. In a city of 115,276, this means 27,205 residents are living in poverty.

The poverty threshold for a family of four was defined as $23,834 in 2013 by the federal government. The per capita yearly money income in Columbia for the period of 2008-2012 in 2012 dollars was $25,689, while the median household income for the same period was $43,084. Half of Columbia households are thus living on less than $43,084 a year, which leads to more residents being in risk of crossing the poverty threshold.

To combat this high level of poverty, the city funds certain charities and programs throughout the community each year. The Division of Human Services has a separate division of Social Services to handle this funding. Each summer, the city opens the process for the application funding renewals or new funding applications, and the application process will finish in November.

Columbia Human Services Manager Steve Hollis said once a service provider has been funded, it’s not hard to have that funding renewed each year.

“All renewal [applications] will be recommended for renewal unless there are identified issues,” Hollis said.

An applicant is more likely to receive funding when the group “addresses a priority issue and there is an identified need in the community for that program’s services, has a higher proposal rating, a higher organizational capacity rating and a positive site visit,” Hollis said.

In the fiscal year of 2012, the city spent $920,695 on social services. This amount was significantly reduced for 2013 down to $893,556. Despite this, the actual budget for the Social Services Department ended up being $912,828. The estimated budget for 2014 was also $893,556 and City Manager Mike Matthes proposed it remain at this level for 2015 as well.

Applicants for the program are generally local organizations that will be highly cost-effective and provide an essential service for Columbia. The interest of the city, according to the fiscal year 2015 City Manager’s Budget is “work (that) includes addressing the causes and effects of poverty by purchasing, coordinating and providing social services in the community.”

The city funds programs and organizations such as local shelters, food pantries, and educational programs.

City Council reviewed the latest charity report at their meeting last week, but has yet to post their discussion of the report online.

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