State shutdown cramps Jewish agencies
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State shutdown cramps Jewish agencies

While most local Jewish agencies were optimistic that they would not feel severe effects from New Jersey’s shutdown of all non-emergency state services, parks, and casinos, one that serves the developmentally disabled feared that it might not make payroll if the state does not resolve its budget situation quickly.

With the government shut down, as this paper went to press, over the stalemate between the governor’s proposed
1 percent sales tax hike and the legislature’s inability to balance the state budget, most Jewish agencies were relatively calm, according to Alan Sweifach, director of Strategic Planning Allocations for UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey.

"Most everyone that I spoke with said that if this thing went on for a month or two, there could be an impact, but that would not be more than just trying to collect the checks that are owed them," said Sweifach after surveying a number of the local federation’s subsidiary agencies.

The heads of both local chapters of Jewish Family Service said that they were not concerned because they did not anticipate a long-term shutdown.

Jeffrey Lampl, the executive director of JFS of Bergen County in Teaneck, said that his agency receives about $60,000 directly from the state each year, which is paid out over 1′ months. His organization would manage if it missed a couple of those payments, he said. He could run into trouble, though, if there is a cascading effect, and Bergen County suddenly could not pay out the money it usually allocates to his JFS — several hundred thousand dollars out of his $’.5 million budget.

That shortfall, he said, would be devastating.

"There are no contingency plans," said Lampl. "An agency our size cannot have a contingency plan for not receiving a couple of hundred thousand dollars."

But he felt that there was little likelihood of a prolonged state shutdown.

His counterpart at JFS of North Jersey in Wayne, Abe Davis, said that his agency receives little of its budget from the state, so he was not very concerned about the shutdown.

But he was afraid that it could hurt individual clients. For instance, one JFS client had a court date scheduled for this morning, and was unsure, as of Wednesday, if it would still be held.

Davis is concerned that if the state stops providing services, more community members may look to JFS for help, overloading his agency.

At the Daughters of Miriam Center/The Gallen Institute in Clifton, Chief Operating Officer Frank DaSilva said that he is only a little worried that his nursing home’s reimbursement from Medicare might be delayed, because for the most part it is generated through the state, and about $11 million per year — roughly 65 percent of his annual budget — comes from Medicare, he said.

But the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities, J-ADD, had already felt a crunch, said its executive director Dr. John Winer.

The organization, which serves 45 residents in kosher group homes and another 180 developmentally disabled people living in private homes in northern New Jersey, receives 90 percent of its budget, which is about $3 million for its residential services and $1 million for its outpatient services, from the state — about $’00,000 per month for residential services, and another $60,000 to $70,000 for outpatient care.

Usually, said Winer, he receives one check per month, either at the beginning or the end of each month. He has already missed one. Most of his payroll comes from the state. He was able to make payroll for the group’s 1’0 employees this week, but, he said, if the shutdown continues for more than a couple of weeks, he will have to dip into his agency’s endowment or reach out to the community to help make ends meet.

"While I have a small comfort zone," he said, "it is not that comfortable…. I’ve got about payroll and a half. If this isn’t resolved in two or three weeks, [meeting] the payroll will be scary."

He also fears that some of his organization’s clients will be put in immediate danger, especially those who are wards of the state.

For instance, as of Wednesday he already knew of one developmentally disabled ward of the state in Elizabeth who needed emergency surgery. That surgery could not be performed without consent from a state guardian, and it was delayed for hours because that state guardian was not working, which caused the disabled person "permanent damage," said Winer.

"The lack of immediacy is a scary thought for me," he said, adding. "I have faith in our politicians. But I’m a little nervous, to be quite honest."

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