Niagara Gazette — Community Missions of Niagara Frontier, Inc. is getting a financial boost from the City of Niagara Falls.
City lawmakers on Monday approved a request from Mayor Paul Dyster's administration to provide $150,000 in casino revenues to the non-profit organization that provides overnight shelter, food and counseling services to the homeless in Niagara Falls and across Niagara County.
During Monday's meeting, community mission officials revealed that they approached city officials weeks ago in light of pressing financial concerns being faced by the organization. They said those concerns were forcing them to consider reducing or eliminating some of the services the group offers.
Representatives acknowledged that Community Missions is in the process of repaying multiple tax liens levied by the Internal Revenue Service in 2012.
Michael Lewis, president of Community Mission's Board of Directors, told council members that the tax issues came about after changes in the Medicare reimbursement system handed down by the state resulted in increasingly large bills for the organization.
He said Community Missions eventually had to choose between paying its taxes and feeding the hungry and paying its employees.
"For the first time in our 90 years, even after reducing our staff, cutting our budget and working diligently to restructure our organization from bottom to top, including finding new and creative revenues, we still need some help," Lewis said.
Lewis stressed that, with the organizational changes in place, Community Missions is on the path to returning to a financially sustainable situation, but needs the "one time" funding boost from the city to get them to that point.
"Those changes can't be realized in the short term," Lewis said.
The funding request was approved in 3-2 council vote, with council Chairman Charles Walker and council members Kristen Grandinetti and Andrew Touma voting in favor.
Grandinetti said she supported the measure because Community Missions provides an invaluable service in making sure the poor and homeless of the city are fed and sheltered.