So many people were trying to enter the County Council Office Building in Rockville for a Monday morning rally that it was difficult to get through the main entrance.
More than 100 employees and supports of local nonprofits had gathered in the building’s lobby to oppose a proposed $600,000 county budget cut to health-related grants provided to nonprofits that offer after-school programs to at-risk kids, community meals for the hungry and workforce training. The cut represents 1 percent of the grant program’s annual budget.
County Executive Ike Leggett had proposed the cut in his fiscal 2018 budget, but on Monday council members said during the rally they planned to reject the cut and even to marginally increase the program’s funding. Leggett spokesman Patrick Lacefield said in an email Monday the proposed cut would reduce the grant funding to the level Leggett had proposed last year and was put forth “to balance needs with the resources available.” However, Lacefield later said Monday Leggett would support a 1 percent funding increase.
Nonprofit workers and supporters in MoCo rallied at Rockville council building today to protest budget cuts pic.twitter.com/zVtv8jNwAe
— Bethesda Beat (@BethesdaBeat) April 24, 2017
Seven of the nine council members—Roger Berliner, Hans Riemer, George Leventhal, Sidney Katz, Craig Rice, Nancy Navarro and Marc Elrich—promised during the rally to restore the funding.
Saying the decision wasn’t a difficult one, Rice said the nonprofit community does “good work that the government can’t always do.”
Those attending the rally held signs that said “Secure the safety net, secure the future” and “Nonprofits build community.” The nonprofit supporters were also asking for a 3 percent increase in total grant funding. That would amount to about $2.4 million, which the council would have to fund as part of its reconciliation list. The list includes items that Leggett didn’t include in his budget, but that council members would like to fund.
“This is a good morning and I think we’re going to have a good conclusion,” Elrich said. “We support restoring the cut and doing everything we can for a 3 percent increase.”
Elrich and Riemer also said they were looking at ways to make sure the funding for nonprofit providers would remain consistent in the future.
Rudi Elien, a student at Silver Spring’s Montgomery Blair High School, explained to those attending the rally that a program run by the nonprofit Community Bridges she attends with hundreds of other girls has given her confidence and helped her start a club at the school.
“We have a home away from home,” Elien said.
Sharon Holquin, a grandmother who cares for her 17-year-old grandson, said Identity Inc. in Gaithersburg—a nonprofit that receives county funding and that runs wellness centers and other programs for at-risk children—has turned her grandson’s life around after he experienced homelessness.
“My grandson has done a 365-degree turn,” Holquin said. “He’s on the honor roll and has learned to dress like a gentleman.”
She said Identity provides her grandson and other children who don’t have elsewhere to go with a space to gather safely outside of school.