Local and Community News
Florida: Orange County Denies Funding for AIDS Group
March 5, 2003
One of central Florida's largest AIDS resource agencies, AIDS Resource Alliance, suffered a severe blow Monday when Orange County officials denied a last-ditch appeal for funding, saying the group is too unstable. "I'm devastated," ARA Executive Director Marc H. D'Aoust said after the decision. "We've got to make some drastic changes."Adapted from:
In 2002, the agency helped more than 1,600 people with HIV/AIDS with services such as health care and counseling, and assistance with rent, utilities and transportation. On Monday, ARA appealed the county's February decision to turn down its grant request, but the three-member review panel ruled that the agency's financial footing is too wobbly. About 30 ARA supporters attended the meeting, whose outcome brought some to tears.
The roughly $300,000 that might have gone to ARA will go to other area groups that may absorb its clients, said Syd McCallister, a senior county contract coordinator on the panel. "I think they are dramatically short of being a financially viable agency," said McCallister. "I feel like, again, we are grasping at straws," a reference to past funding problems.
Orange County this year will allocate $2.4 million in federal Ryan White funds to HIV/AIDS service organizations. That funding has been the largest source of money for ARA, founded in 1988. Without it, D'Aoust said, up to half of its 25 full-time workers in Orlando could be laid off. The agency also receives money from other local, state and national sources.
County officials cited ARA's recent leadership changes and financial clouds for its decision. ARA had four different directors in the past year. Medicaid regulators last year informed the alliance it had overbilled the federal government by $400,000 or more. With penalties, ARA faced a $1.4 million fine, D'Aoust said, but he said the Florida Attorney General's Office said Friday it would settle for roughly $63,000. Still, ARA has had trouble keeping up with mortgage payments and has had to reduce staff hours.
03.04.03; David Damron
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.