From Kelley Ellsworth, Executive Director of Byte Back, Inc.
As the District of Columbia faces daunting challenges in light of the federal government shutdown, nonprofits around the city are struggling mightily to stay afloat and to continue providing critical services. We at Byte Back applaud the City Council and Mayor Gray for classifying all city workers as essential and tapping into the emergency fund. Essential services that ensure public safety and wellbeing should be prioritized when determining which city bills to pay.
However, we are concerned that other vital services in our city are in jeopardy. The city has put on hold any FY14 grant awards pertaining to non-essential services such as workforce development and adult education. This means that the very agencies that work hard to help our residents find jobs and helped our city to recover from the recession are now in danger.
Byte Back empowers over 1,000 low-income District residents each year through job readiness and computer training. This training ranges from basic computer literacy skills enabling access to needed services to industry-recognized computer certification classes aimed at growth industry jobs that pay a living wage with opportunity for advancement. We partner with many other workforce development agencies that provide complementary services such as adult basic education, preparation for the GED and job placement services.
As the District is forced to prioritize certain agencies and grants over others, adult education services may be among the last to receive grant awards. Even if the federal government shutdown ends and the District receives budget authority as soon as November 1, payments will likely be delayed for much more than a month as various District agencies work to figure out who should get paid first and when and how much.
Many nonprofits providing adult education services operate on semester schedules. If they close down for a few weeks, an entire semester is lost. This means that organizational goals for the year will be unmet, thereby jeopardizing future funding opportunities. Many adult education agencies are small, community-based organizations already operating on shoestring budgets without large reserves or lines of credit. This fiscal crisis may eliminate an entire sector of the nonprofit community.
Thankfully, Byte Back has a small reserve fund and a line of credit, which will enable us to continue operations for the next few weeks. Many smaller nonprofits, however, are not so fortunate and this crisis may force them to close their doors. If the stalemate continues, this may be Byte Back’s fate as well.