Charlotte United Way slashes charity grants by one third

Charlotte's United Way on Tuesday approved a recession-damaged spending plan that cuts grants to local charities by more than a third, slicing away millions of much-needed budget dollars even as community needs skyrocket.

United Way officials, who had $7.5 million fewer dollars to give to their 90-plus agencies this year, say the economy left them little choice but to chop grants by 35 percent overall. With collections plummeting compared to the previous year, even emergency programs battling the recession's fallout took budget cuts of 20 percent.

“We're in crisis mode,” said United Way board chairman Carlos Evans. “We had to do some draconian things just to preserve what we were able to preserve.”

More than 200 volunteers made the decisions; the United Way's board approved the plan in a closed meeting this morning, and then broke the bad news to each of the 90-plus local charities the organization supports.

Reaction was swift, and emotional.

Crisis Assistance Ministries, a critical needs charity that helps with rent and utilities, lost 22 percent of its money at a time when lines at the door are 48 percent longer. Director Carol Hardison said the loss will be made up in part by relying more on volunteers to handle growing crowds of needy people.

“There's an air of sadness out there among agencies,” she said. “When this amount of money is taken out of the human-services safety net, the impact has a ripple effect. …It will take months to feel the impact, and it will take many more months and years to recover.”

The spending cuts were precipitated by troubles with last year's fund drive, which was plagued by the recession, a banking crisis and by outcry over former CEO Gloria Pace King's lucrative pay. She was fired Sept. 30, and is suing the board for wrongful termination.

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