Last year, young people in Maupin had the opportunity to participate in a summer program that took them on a trip across the state. It is operated by South Wasco Youth Programs, a nonprofit serving approximately 110 students in north central Oregon.
“We’re in a rural, poor area, so to do this was amazing,” said Director Amber Anderson.
Anderson was able to pay for the trips last year through a $45,000 summer scholarship from the state.
This year, he got nothing.
“I’m very disappointed, I’m not going to lie,” he said of the delay.
The reason: a new requirement from the government that recipients have additional insurance against rape and sexual abuse.
In 2021, the State Legislature approved $40 million to go toward summer education provided by community groups. More than 500 took advantage of the money. This year, the government approved a total of 48 million dollars, but due to the need for insurance, 376 groups were able to receive money this year, a decrease of 25%.
In the summer of 2021, the Oregon Community Foundation was overseeing the distribution of funds. It required providers to have insurance, but did not require them to specify different types of care. The foundation is a non-profit organization not affiliated with any government or public sector, and it provides the funds as donations.
This year, the Oregon Association of Education Service Districts was responsible for donating the funds to community groups. Because it’s a public agency that works with the state — its financial backer is the Clackamas Education Service District, a taxpayer-funded agency — the Oregon Department of Justice had to review its application process. The department found that additional sexual assault and rape insurance may be needed in community settings such as schools.
In March, Jennifer Brenden, program manager for the Oregon Association of Education Service Districts and the Oregon Department of Education, learned the additional requirement would be needed and tried to do everything possible to get it changed.
Doing this in the middle of summer was unnecessary. It’s not the insurance that’s necessary for our jobs, it’s the insurance that’s necessary to meet the outdated and confusing requirements of the Legislature.
– Matt Boulay, executive director, Salem Art Association
Oregon school districts and many non-profit groups such as the YMCA and Boys & Girls Club already have issues with sexual harassment and bullying allegations, but smaller community groups and non-profits have not had to do so. It can be difficult to secure and very expensive, Brenden said.
“The Department of Education worked hard to find ways to work and how to help. We all tried everything, turning every stone,” he said.
Ultimately, removing the requirement would involve changing state laws, and there was nothing that could be done quickly enough.
Many groups learned during the application process in June that they are no longer eligible. Banned South Wasco Youth Programs.
“I run a small nonprofit,” Anderson said. “We bring in maybe $95,000 a year. So to buy $10,000 insurance? That’s ridiculous.”
A few weeks later, the board of education announced that it would allow teams to use insurance funds. This put Anderson in need of insurance.
He said: “When I sent the form all the money was gone.
Brenden said groups would email and call him asking what happened.
“There was a very difficult conversation after that,” he said. “It’s a small pot of dollars. It is not available forever. We went back to ODE and asked: ‘Are there any more dollars for these organizations?’ And we were told that there is none,” he said.
Matt Boulay, executive director of the Salem Art Association, was able to get additional insurance for his group in mid-July and finished sending his application for funding. But since it all ended late, the group will use some of the money that has been given to continue the financial activities until this year.
“For this to happen in the middle of summer was unnecessary,” said Boulay. “It’s not the insurance that’s important to our work, it’s the insurance that’s needed to meet the demands of the old Legislature.”
A few teams made more money
The average grant amount rose from $75,000 in 2021 to $150,000 this year because fewer teams received funding. In Multnomah County, 165 groups received grants last year. This year, 96 did. But the total amount allocated to the district was up nearly $1.2 million from last year.
Woodburn-based nonprofit CAPACES received $385,000, nearly doubling its 2021 award. The additional funding allowed the group to provide programs at Salem, Turner and MacLaren Youth Correctional Facilities, as well as Woodburn, said Executive Director Jaime Arredondo.
CAPACES ran a youth vocational school, took students on trips to the beach and hired parents and community members to teach programs related to food culture, language and traditional medicine.
“It’s an added value, giving the government workers who can give back to their communities,” Arredondo said.
The capital funding also helped cover the increased cost of programs due to inflation for many community groups, Brenden said.
“When we looked at inflation, transportation alone was four times more expensive than last year,” Brenden said.
Brenden said the Education Service District will consider becoming an education fund distributor again next year, but will hire more staff and start over.
He said the government should consider allocating some money to help the community pay for the insurance that the government wants.
Because grantees were not required to report the amount of money they were awarded to pay for extended insurance, Brenden is not sure that all of the money the state learned over the summer went toward paying for insurance.
Brenden said the government should also require insurance companies to make it easier for minorities to get coverage for sexual abuse and rape.
“If this is what nonprofits have to do now to do business, then we need to tell companies that this should be the standard.”
He said the state should commit to long-term funding for summer programs so they don’t have to choose from year to year because they have the last two years.
“They have to make a decision to settle,” he said, “and tell them that this will happen for five years in a row. The community organizations at the moment cannot make programs.”
Despite trying to find a legal fix, Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, said it seems unlikely. Dembrow advocated for summer education funding and asked the Legislative Policy and Research Office to look into what could be done to change insurance laws.
“I don’t think there is anything we can do to solve their lack of insurance, but we will show that their support can pay,” Dembrow said in a statement. The Senate Education Committee will begin planning discussions in October to try to get it resolved before next year’s legislative session. Dembrow said his goal will be to raise funds for summer training for the next two seasons to provide consistency for community organizations that want to continue to provide strong programs.
“The goal will be for next year’s budget to be approved at the beginning of the legislative session so that they can plan with certainty earlier than before,” he said.
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