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Grant-In-Aid could be fully restored to $46M, undoing last year’s cuts

More than 100 nonprofits would see their state funding levels fully restored under a proposal approved by the Delaware Legislature’s budget-writing committee.

The Joint Finance Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to allocate nearly $46 million to the Grant-In-Aid bill — $4.2 million more than was recommended by Gov. John Carney.

Members of the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement were “jumping up and down in joy” at the news, said chief executive director Sheila Bravo.

“For some agencies, this is very significant funding,” she said. “To hear unanimous support for reinstatement, this is something our members are going to be thrilled with.”

If approved by the full General Assembly, the proposal would bring the total funding for nonprofits — including fire departments — back to the level in fiscal year 2016.

Lawmakers last year imposed a nearly 20 percent, across-the-board cut to the Grant-In-Aid bill as part of an effort to close a $400 million budget gap. That reduction, approved in the waning days of the legislative calendar, cut $8.7 million in funding out of the bill.

Bravo said those cuts forced some nonprofits that serve seniors and the poor to reduce services and layoff employees.

Carney in January had proposed restoring half of last year’s cut. Since then, however, the state has seen its anticipated revenue for next year grow by close to $380 million.

That led many legislators including the House Republican caucus and House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, to call for a full restoration of last year’s cuts.

The Grant-In-Aid plan approved by JFC also would represent to a boon to the state’s three counties by undoing changes made last year to the reimbursement formula for paramedic services.

The state is currently providing 24 percent of those reimbursement costs compared to 30 percent a year earlier. The counties are required to pick up the remainder at an overall cost of $2.2 million.

The Grant-In-Aid proposal for next year would return the formula to a 30-70 percent split.

JFC also directed state officials to examine how the funding formula is calculated. County officials say the current system, based on two years of historical data, does not take into account increasing demand for paramedic services.

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer cheered the proposed changes, which would save the county about $1 million a year.

Over the last 15 years, calls for paramedic services have increased by 66 percent while state reimbursement funding has fallen by nearly a third, he said.

“This is critical for us,” he said. “We’ve taken a lot of steps this year to address our structural deficit and nowhere is that deficit more impacted than in our paramedic service … which is one of the most important things we do.”

JFC co-chairs Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington, and Rep. Melanie George Smith, D-Bear, said the panel will reconvene the last day of the legislative session to examine whether it can make additional increases to the Grant-In-Aid bill’s bottom line.

The committee also may consider increases to specific nonprofits at that time, they said.

Much of what happens then depends on legislation still pending before the General Assembly.

A proposed tax cut for Delaware’s three casinos, for example, would reduce state revenue by $20 million a year and could prevent additional funding from being allocated to nonprofits. Schwartzkopf has proposed that tax cut be reduced to $10 million.

A final Grant-In-Aid bill is expected to reach the full General Assembly on Saturday.

“You can never fully predict what might happen on the last night of session,” Bravo said. “There are some others thing we know they are working on so we’re not done yet.”