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As beep’s budget rebounds, QJCC fights for funding

Now that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council have agreed not to slash Borough President Helen Marshall’s budget by as much as the mayor had originally proposed, the executive director of the Queens Jewish Community Council in Forest Hills is trying to make sure her group retains most, if not all, of its funding.

“Though the borough president’s budget was restored with a 20 percent cut, that makes a big difference for us,” said Cynthia Zalisky, the executive director of the QJCC. “We don’t know what we’ll be getting, but a 20 percent cut to our budget when we have a 30 percent increase in clients would have a devastating impact.”

The QJCC is a nonprofit based in Forest Hills but services individuals throughout the borough. The 40-year-old group provides a food pantry, a Meals on Wheels program, cultural programming for seniors, translation services for immigrants and help for seniors applying for Social Security benefits, Medicaid and Medicare, among other programs.

The QJCC’s funding comes from the discretionary monies funneled from the city to Marshall, but Zalisky did not specify the dollar amount. The QJCC has received funding from the borough president’s office for about 20 years.

City funding to the borough president’s offices will be cut about $6.1 million, down from the proposed $7.5 million. Dan Andrews said he was unsure as to exactly how much Marshall’s budget would be trimmed, but said it would be less than the $2.9 million originally proposed by Bloomberg.

The QJCC has seen a spike in the number of people seeking help from the group. The group had about 10,000 clients last year, and Zalisky expects that number to be around 13,000 this year.

“We are seeing people who would’ve never come to us before,” Zalisky said. “There’s a lot of families, people who have just lost their jobs. A lot more people are coming to us about food stamps and for the food pantry. I should be increasing my staff, not losing staff.”

Though Zalisky said she is relieved her group does not face half of its budget being axed as it would have if the Council had approved Bloomberg’s original proposal, she could still have to lay off one staff worker or possibly a case manager should her budget be cut.

“There are only six people in our office, so just losing one person impacts us tremendously,” Zalisky said.

With private monies drying up, Zalisky said nonprofits like the QJCC are relying more and more on public funds.

“Could we make up cuts in another wayi” Zalisky said. “There were years it wouldn’t have been an issue. Now, it’s a big issue. Resources are drying up. We’re always concerned that Queens never gets its fair shake, and we’re concerned about this more than ever when everybody’s clawing for the same dollar.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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