Options loses funding for current fiscal year|Citing failures, state agency denies money

Published 3:08 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Staff Writer

A much-beset local domestic violence shelter has been told by the state agency overseeing domestic-violence programs that it will not receive funds from that agency for the current 2009-2010 fiscal year.
Shelter officials were working Monday to obtain emergency cash in order to avoid shutting down its operations today or Wednesday, according to Theresa Andrews, executive director of Options to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
Options, which is based in Washington, has for years provided advocacy and shelter services for battered women in Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell and Washington counties.
It was notified by a letter from Mel L. Chilton, executive director of the N.C. Council for Women/Domestic Violence Commission, to Andrews and Delma Blinson, board president, that it is ineligible for grant funds from that agency.
The letter indicates the action came as a result of “the site visit assessment findings on August 20, 2009.” And it asks the local agency to make “appropriate provisions” — by working with other nearby shelters — for the four families it says are currently housed by Options.
“Sadly, Options does not meet the statutory requirements to be eligible for domestic violence center funds,” Chilton said in her letter.
Under the auspices of the state Department of Administration, the N.C. Council for Women/Domestic Violence Commission provides funds to domestic-violence programs that provide shelter services, counseling, 24-hour crisis-line services, transportation, court and advocacy services and assistance to children who have witnessed violence.
Chilton’s letter cited Options for failing to meet four state requirements. Options lacks the following, according to Chilton’s letter:
• Appropriate daytime services in Hyde and Tyrrell counties;
• Failed to repay $4,929 to the Council for Women/Domestic Violence Commission for unallowable costs discovered in a state audit of the agency and $41,678 owed in back salaries;
• The required community education programs established in the five counties it serves; and
• The required minimum of 20 percent matching funds to apply for grant funding.
Andrews said that Options’ Board of Directors had previously discussed its funding with the state agency and believed that any questions involving the shelter and its budget had been resolved.
“We are not agreeing to the allegations in the letter,” she said.
This is not the first time that Options funding has been denied by a state agency.
Options previously lost some of its funding after it refused to repay more than $50,000 the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission insisted it owed the state because of improper spending in the previous fiscal year. And after a long fight with the state over grant funding, the organization ran out of money and other groups received appropriations to serve the area.
In February 2009, the commission sent a contract for renewed funding with the stipulation that it hire a new director to replace Lee anne Hanson-Niver and find board members from each of the counties it serves.
Options receives about $350,000 to $400,000 — or about 60 percent of its budget — in state funds, Andrews said.
“Obviously, we couldn’t continue to operate with only 40 percent of our funds,” Andrews said.