United Way Cuts Affect Many, Including Native Youth

The Greater Twin Cities United Way has missed its funding goals and has begun cutting staff and programs. Among those affected are the American Indian Youth Enrichment Program and Project Spirit, according to Randi Roth, executive director of Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul which oversees the programs.

Roth’s blog titled: “Spotlight on Children: Crisis in Resources for Healthy Development” said the United Way eliminated all funding for its literacy-related work in the kindergarten through fifth grade age group. Those cuts threaten Interfaith Action’s after school programs with being “seriously diluted or worse,” Roth wrote.

[Full disclosure: Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul is the fiscal agent for the St. Paul Interfaith Network and Healing Minnesota Stories.]

The American Indian Youth Enrichment Program provides culturally specific K-5 after school programming three days a week. It focuses on American Indian history and culture, has an entirely American Indian staff, and draws on Lakota values. “Through this work, we have long-term impact of seeing American Indian youth gain a strong indigenous identity, become advocates for their culture, and succeed in school,” Interfaith Action’s website says.

The cuts will make a similar impact on Project Spirit, which provides similar supports in four St. Paul elementary schools where students are predominantly African American and poor. This program focuses on African American history and culture, has an entirely African American staff, and draws on the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

These kinds of programs should not depend on discretionary philanthropic decisions, where donations can rise and fall with the stock market and funder interest. And the impact on these two afterschool programs is just one example of what United Way cuts mean. For instance, an April 27 Star Tribune story said the United Way was eliminating the Safety from Family Violence program, a $4.5 million domestic violence grant program.

So various nonprofits will be scrambling to find new sources of funding, either that or they will reduce or stop services. In the case of the American Indian Youth Enrichment Program and Project Spirit, funding requests are going out to religious communities: “How do we as a faith community respond?” Roth wrote. “We will be reaching out to clergy from areas congregations and faith and spiritual communities to see if we can piece togheter a plan to keep this important work alive in our children’s lives.”

There could be additional service cuts to vulnerable groups, depending on final negotiations on state budget bills. The legislature has to adjourn on Monday. Stay tuned.

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