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A notable strength of our state is the many nongovernmental organizations working to strengthen Louisiana communities. Often, these organizations receive taxpayer dollars to supplement their fundraising efforts. It’s a beneficial partnership in a state where, let’s face it, the needs are great and resources are scarce.

But in an astonishing use of his line-item veto power, Gov. Jeff Landry threw a wrench into that beneficial relationship last week by cutting, without warning, $4 million in NGO funding approved by the mostly conservative House and Senate. Many of the requests funded the work of nonprofits that depend on the money to support the neediest citizens.

The cuts include $250,000 for The First 72+, a New Orleans organization that helps former prisoners reintegrate into society; $250,000 for the Dr. James Gilmore Institute for Human Development and Excellence, a Baton Rouge-based nonprofit organization that aims to reduce crime and fight poverty; and $500,000 for the Teach for America program, which places teachers in underserved classrooms.

The two vetoes that are drawing the most attention, however, are the $1 million cut in funding to the Louisiana Endowment for Humanities, a New Orleans nonprofit that supports arts and culture, and the $1 million cut in funding to Catholic Charities of Acadiana, which uses the money to run a homeless shelter in Lafayette.

Both organizations say they are making the best of it and looking for ways to make up for the shortfalls, but these losses were clearly not expected. LEH President Miranda Restovic said the organization will use its “entrepreneurial spirit” to fill the funding gap. And Catholic Charities spokesman Ben Broussard said the nonprofit will look for ways in the coming weeks to offer community supporters additional opportunities to contribute to its mission. Its fiscal year begins July 1.

While we support scrutiny of government funding for NGOs, we are baffled as to why Landry’s office did not issue guidance before issuing these vetoes. Nonprofits often operate on tight budgets and spend the majority of their revenue on public welfare, making them less able to withstand these types of shocks.

Moreover, the Landry administration’s justification for the cuts appears to have more than a hint of political opportunism. In his veto letter to House Speaker Phil Devillier and Senate President Cameron Henry, Landry stated that he wanted to “work with the legislature to develop clear criteria for what types of NGO requests represent the best use of our scarce federal resources.”

But in a later statement, the governor suggested that the reason for the veto was the support that Catholic Charities typically provides to immigrants, in accordance with church teachings. “Taxpayers should never pay for nonprofits that contribute to the illegal immigration crisis facing our country,” the statement said.

Never mind that the $1 million in funding will go to a homeless shelter where 81% of its residents are from Acadiana and another 10% are from other communities across the state.

It’s one thing to make sure NGOs spend government money effectively; it’s quite another to misrepresent their work. Many of these organizations have been serving our communities for decades (Catholic Charities has been providing homeless shelters in Lafayette since the 1970s) and they rarely get the recognition they deserve for their efforts to address problems some would rather ignore.

If state leaders do not value their contributions, we hope there will be a groundswell of support at the local level to benefit these groups that have always been the backbone of our state.