PARKERSBURG - As grant funding sources dry up, more and more agencies, especially social service agencies, are feeling the pinch.
Toni Tiano has been the grant coordinator for Wood County for the past 20 years.
"It seems the focus is going away from nonprofits, the social service types of programs," she said. "The county may get a large grant for Homeland Security, or floodplain management, but the smaller grants, for underaged drinking prevention programs, juvenile justice liaisons, are gone. Many of the diversion programs that juvenile probation had are gone because the grant funding is no longer available. It seems the social service types of programs are being cut back," Tiano said.
Wood County last received a grant for a juvenile justice liaison in 2008; the last grant for the PEACE Program, an anger management program, was 2010. Youth In Effective Legal Diversion was last awarded a grant in 2009, and 2008 was the last year for a grant for the QUIT Program. The STOP grant's last year was 2011 and funding for the underage drinking prevention/education Service, Observation, Behavior Management, Education, Rehabilitation Program dried up in 2012. That program had been in existence for 14 years.
In many cases, grants were the only, or main source of funding for those programs.
Larry Johnson, chief juvenile probation officer in Wood County, said two positions were lost as a result of dwindling grant funding. He said his office has absorbed the additional workload.
"We still have some of the programs, not all of them, but PEACE and STOP we are handling through our office without any additional funding. The staff took on the extra duties and now we are working with the youth reporting center to do the counseling," he said.
"We don't have the S.O.B.E.R. Program anymore. They do still do the obstacle course. Dan McPherson, with State Farm who assisted with the program, has taken it over." Johnson said, adding the juvenile drug court program has absorbed some of the S.O.B.E.R. program activities.
"A lot of those kids who would have qualified for the S.O.B.E.R. Program in the past now qualify for the juvenile drug court," Johnson said.
Tiano noted it seems programs aimed at prevention, intervention and diversion are seeing the deepest cuts.
"It seems we are being more reactive than proactive," she said of the federal trend of grant funding.
Tiano noted recent bills from the West Virginia Legislature aimed at reducing overcrowding in the regional jails and prisons by providing additional funding for alternative, or early release types of programs may provide some additional grant funding. Programs like day report centers are anticipating more clients and more funds coming their way as a result.
"But I have heard no idea of what kind of dollar figure they are talking about," Tiano said.
In 2008, the Mid-Ohio Valley Day Report Center received $274,551, in 2011 it was $347,812 and this year the grant was $453,955.
Tiano said the Victims of Crime Act funding and Justice Assistance Grant Program are both awaiting news of their grants for the new year.
"The state has yet to receive their federal allotment, so they really have no definite funds awarded to them right now. They aren't even able to tell us what they will have available at this point. We are operating on a month-by-month extension through the end of August," Tiano said.
"Depending on how long they have to extend it, eventually the funds will run out, they only have so much to extend. We are still working off the grant that technically ended June 30 and they just keep extending it, because they can't act on the new one that should have started July 1 because they don't how much money they are going to have to work with," she said.
The application was filed in back in March. The grant funds for the new year should have been allocated July 1.
The committee in Charleston has reviewed all the applications and compiled the priority list as to who would get funded and what the dollar figure would be, but until the state knows for sure how much money it is going to receive, the committee can't start sending out letters.
"If they don't get the amount of money they thought they would be receiving, then they are going to have to make some decisions about what to do next," Tiano said.
"The P.R.O. (Prevention Resource Officers) grants are basically in the same boat. They haven't received their awards, the officers usually just work when school is in session. We haven't heard anything yet on the status of the grant funds," Tiano said.
There are currently three officers on that program. A deputy sheriff is assigned to Williamstown High School, and Parkersburg Police Department officers are assigned to Parkersburg High School and Parkersburg South High School.
Tiano said that application was also filed back in March, it has been reviewed and the priority list set with the dollar amounts that would be appropriated based on what the state believes it will receive.
"We have no date as to when they will know, or we will be notified," Tiano said. "If the funds aren't received, it would be up to the respective police agencies whether or not they would continue to allow the officer to serve in that capacity."
The P.R.O. grant provides reimbursement for officers' salaries and benefits. The Wood County Board of Education provided $13,500 as a match and the county commission does the same for the Williamstown officer, Tiano said.
"Right now, we have no indication of what is going to happen regarding the grant funding," she said.
The program has seen a steady decreases in funding. The P.R.O. Program grant funding was once $30,000, but is now close to $20,000. The officers are at the schools during the day providing a police presence, and they also attend extra-curricular activities, provide additional safety, act as mentors, and talk to the students about the dangers of drugs.
"They establish relationships with the students so the kids feel comfortable talking to them about problems. One of the officers, Deputy (Scott) Jefferson at Williamstown, was able to thwart what could have been a possible dangerous situation last year and was presented with a Distinguished Service Award by the West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Service for his efforts," Tiano said.
The P.R.O. Program also provides classes on non-traditional educational topics such as juvenile law, domestic violence, underage drinking, drug and alcohol prevention and child abuse and neglect, along with mentoring students and providing safety training including recognizing potential danger, preventing violence and responding to dangerous school situations.
The grant funding from the Victims of Crime Act grant funding for a victim's advocate in the prosecutor's office is also in limbo.
"The county and the prosecutor will have to decide what they want to do if the grant funds are not available," Tiano said, adding there is also an assistant part-time victim's advocate.
"We have tried for years to get funding for a full-time assistant because the caseload is so high, but the state would never fund that," Tiano said.
The advocates go to court with the victims, work with victims' families, assist in filing for restitution, keeps victims and their families apprised of court schedules relating to their case, and provide support.