Service providers seek Rainy Day Funds

Jerry Rauckhorst
Jerry Rauckhorst
Alex Santiago
Alex Santiago
Sen. Fred Hemmings
Sen. Fred Hemmings

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Senior citizens strum out a song and stretch out their muscles at the Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center.

"It's it's just a hub of activity every day," said Catholic Charities CEO Jerry Rauckhorst.

The organization runs the senior center.

Rauckhorst has to find money to subsidize up to $250,000 of its $400,000 annual operating cost.

He counted on the state's Rainy Day Fund.

But the money's on hold.

"We've basically had to go out there and beg within the community to be able to get the dollars to be able to keep the program viable," he said.

Dozens of agencies and non-profits that help clients and caregivers are in the same boat.

They want Governor Linda Lingle to release $23.7 million from the fund.

"This so-called Rainy Day Fund was set up to shore up the social services safety net during a rainy day. Well, it's storming right now in communities," said Alex Santiago of PHOCUSED, a coalition of health, housing and human service providers..

Lawmakers appropriated the money last session.

But Lingle said the state's economic recovery is too fragile to release money from the fund at this time.

Outgoing Republican state Sen. Fred Hemmings said there's a bigger picture.

"Public workers through collective bargaining are getting all the gravy of the state budget to the extent that even special funds are raided, including funds for the needy," he said.

About 42 safety net providers along with Catholic Charities were banking on the Rainy Day money.

Without it, some of them scaled back services or sacrificed salaries.

Rauckhorst said when he goes back to donors who've already given, he hears a disturbing question..

"How many more times are you going to ask us to subsidize, in a sense, what government should be subsidizing?" he said.

Rauckhorst said the Rainy Day money is essential to keeping the Senior Center going for 2,000 seniors who use it and would hate to lose it.

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