For Immediate Release: 8/25/09
Contact: Amy McMahon, CEO, STOP AIDS
Office: (513) 421-2437 Cell: (513) 505-3816
STATE STILL HOLDING FEDERAL HIV FUNDS INTENDED FOR LOCAL AGENCIES
STAFF AND BOARD PITCH IN TO ENSURE SERVICES STILL AVAILABLE
STOP AIDS in Cincinnati, as well as other HIV service providers in Cincinnati and around the state, is still waiting for the release of federal funds by the Ohio Department of Health. Agencies have been given a variety of reasons for the delays in their second quarter payments, covering the period of July through September, but most recently the state’s payment system, OAKS, is being blamed by the Ohio Department of Health for the delays.
The funds are federal dollars distributed through the Ryan White Part B program, providing assistance in accessing medical care and life-saving medication for those living with HIV as well as emergency financial and housing assistance. The funds also pay for a portion of agency operational expenses, including staff to deliver services.
While STOP AIDS is waiting for over $170,000 to be released the agency’s staff and board have rallied around clients and each other offering to take additional pay cuts or to forego checks all together in order to ensure that emergency services continue to be available to clients and staff layoffs are prevented. Board members have increased donations to help keep the agency afloat until funds are received.
Amy McMahon, CEO of STOP AIDS, has worked with the staff of the Ohio Department of Health to resolve this issue for several weeks to no avail. Originally, the funds were delayed while the state’s budget was hashed out and finally agreed upon in July. However, delays have continued, and STOP AIDS has again been told today by ODH that payment should be made by the end of the week. Having heard this for four previous weeks STOP AIDS staff is skeptical.
“I understand that in an organization as complex as the State of Ohio issuing a $ 170,000 payment is somewhat more complicated than pulling out a checkbook and writing a check”, says McMahon. “But this is a process that ODH must go through with hundreds of agencies each quarter, so I don’t understand why it is a constant battle to issue payment in a timely manner. I can assure you if I told the State of Ohio that they’d just have to wait until I got around to submitting our grant application, our agency would no longer be receiving federal dollars for HIV services. If we are partners in this process, as ODH staff reminded me this week that we are, then I would expect to see a little more collaboration in getting services delivered to those in our community that both organizations are intended to serve”.
STOP AIDS is asking community members who are concerned with this issue to contact Governor Strickland and ask that the State of Ohio release federal HIV dollars immediately and work to prevent the constant delays in funding intended for local communities in the future.
By email: governor.ohio.gov
By phone: (614) 466-3555
By Fax: (614) 466-9354