CoSA Winnipeg faces funding cuts from all sides

March 26, 2014 | God at work in the World
By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Manitoba Correspondent

Recent weeks have been a financial roller coaster ride for Joan Carolyn and Daniel Epp, the program director and associate for Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) Winnipeg, respectively.

Towards the end of February, they received word that Correctional Service Canada (CSC) Chaplaincy was cutting its funding of $650,000 to the 18 CoSA programs across Canada effective March 31. CoSA supports high-risk released offenders with integration into their communities and helps them lead responsible and productive lives. For CoSA Winnipeg, the withdrawal of this federal grant represents $25,000, almost one-sixth of its total budget of $147,000.

Then, about two weeks later, due to public pressure, CSC Chaplaincy reversed its decision and reinstated the funding. CoSA Winnipeg is moving forward with cautious optimism.

“We don’t know the details about this decision reversal,” says Epp. “We don’t know if and when we will still be honoured with that $25,000. We don’t know if there will be conditions attached to that. At this point, we are still considering the money is gone.”

CoSA Winnipeg has decided to cut two part-time program assistants from its staff of four. Uncertain whether and when it will receive the $25,000 that it has relied on for many years, the Winnipeg organization also faces other financial squeezes.

For the past five years, it has had a contract with the National Crime Prevention Centre that has provided $1.5 million/year to CoSA programs across Canada, which amounted to upwards of $50,000 for the Winnipeg program. This five-year contract runs out at the end of September.

“We also receive $36,000 a year from the Provincial Special Needs Program, and, in light of these other decisions regarding the two federal funding sources, this may be up for change as well,” says Epp.

If that is not enough, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba has been decreasing its financial support every year. CoSA Winnipeg had its beginning 15 years ago under the MCC Manitoba umbrella, but just over three years ago it and three other organizations spun out on their own, forming Initiatives for Just Communities. Following that decision, MCC funding was designed to decline each year.

“Definitely in this past fiscal year, the pressure has been on to look for other funding sources,” says Epp. “We have made a decision to maintain the 12 circles currently running. We do not want to compromise any of the active circles, but it does mean that we can’t expand.”

What it amounts to is that a substantial waiting list of released offenders will have to wait indefinitely for a circle.

Carolyn and Epp hope that the results of a study being done by the National Crime Prevention Centre will give CoSA greater leverage to pursue other funding sources. The regular tracking of CoSA clients “shows that this program dramatically reduces the rate for re-offence,” says Epp. “But for now, when the contract with the National Crime Prevention Centre ends at the end of September, so will that funding.”

--Posted March 26, 2014

See also:

CoSA: cautious optimism (March 17, 2014)

I was in prison (March 31, 2014)

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I find the title of this article presumptive and alarmist. While the concern over loss of government funding for CoSA is a concern, MCC Manitoba remains a committed core funding partner of IJC. It is accurate that our funding is decreasing under the terms of a 7 year agreement. However, that should not be equated with a lack of willingness by MCC to stand by this important program should a loss of government funding actually come about. Politicians may not see the bright light of CoSA's social, emotional, and spiritual impact but it is not lost on MCC. In Manitoba, we will be there for them.

Ron Janzen
Executive Director
MCC Manitoba

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