After-school programs in Moriah and Willsboro are at risk of closing. Funding for the two programs, which serve 85 elementary-age children, will end in April. Unless addition money is found, both sites will close. The ACAP after-school program currently serves 61 children from 46 families at Moriah Central School.
The Essex County Department of Social Services may be coming to the rescue of the Moriah and Willsboro after-school programs.
Members of the county’s Human Services Committee passed a resolution Feb. 13 to use $31,000 in reserve funds from the Social Services budget to help pay for the Adirondack Community Action Programs’ (ACAP) after-school programs. The money would fund the program through the end of the school year in Moriah and Willsboro.
The proposal will now go before the county Ways and Means Committee for consideration.
The program lost its state funding recently, and county officials have since been seeking ways to help the program so it does not have to shut down.
“It is from a prior year expense that would be used to cover the expenses for the rest of the year for those two programs,” Social Services Director John O’Neill said. “It’s money that we had in reserve, and I talked with Dan (Palmer, county manager) about using it in this way.”
“The amount is what John had set aside for some previous claims that we had talked about,” Palmer said. “This will cover through the end of this year. If you wanted to do more besides that, there is nothing short of the tax levy where you could get the funds from.”
The move was welcome news for ACAP Executive Director Alan Jones and Marjorie Zmijewski, program manager.
“We don’t want a situation where the children are without care for the next three months,” Jones said.
The five-year funding contract for the Moriah and Willsboro after-school programs was given a six-month extension earlier in the year, but was not given another, forcing ACAP to either find alternative funding or close the programs down.
Zmijewski said the program tries to get its information out to as many people as it can.
“We will send educational materials out to let people know about the programs that we provide in the communities that we serve,” Zmijewski said, adding that they use those materials as a lobbying tool in Albany.
Members of the committee passed the resolution and added their beliefs that the state should put the funding back.
“It is a shame that the state does not realize how important this program is,” County Chairman Randall “Randy” Douglas of Jay said.
“It’s a shame that they would grant the extension and then allow the funding to stop mid-year,” Lewis Supervisor David Blades said.
“It’s alright to say that you want no new taxes at the state level, but if you do that, you can’t cut services to the counties that they really need,” Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow said.
Jones said while they were appreciative of the help from the county, they were already looking ahead to the next school year and a funding source for the programs affected.
“We are working very hard to try and get funding for these two schools in the fall,” Jones said.
After-school programs in Elizabethtown and Westport are under a funding contract through 2014, but Jones said that the state could actually pull funding at any time, if they opt to.