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Heightened Financial Challenges for Neighbor Island Nonprofits

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Neighbor Island nonprofits have been in a tough spot through the COVID-19 economy. Their services are needed more than ever, but their funding has been harder to come by.

For nonprofits providing social services, government reimbursement can be a major source of funding.

Whether it’s placing homeless people in shelters or providing health care to underserved communities, such nonprofits are often doing work under state or federal grants.

As of 2019, federal grants alone put $482 million into Hawaii’s nonprofit sector.

Neighbor Island nonprofits said a challenge has been that the federal government has been very slow to pay, just as they’ve become busier than ever.

For example, Hope Services Hawaii on Hawaii Island doubled its workforce from 65 to 125 to meet new, increased needs for food distribution and homelessness due to the COVID-19 economy.

CEO Brandee Menino said the organization is still waiting on $1 million in reimbursement for services provided.

Local government is more responsive.

Debbie Cabebe, CEO of Maui Economic Opportunity, said that Maui County grants provide 25% of the funding upfront.

Megan Fox, executive director of Malama Kauai said the county provides 80% of its funding upfront.

Fundraising can make up the difference especially when it comes to unrestricted funds that can support a nonprofit’s ongoing expenses. But fundraising events have been impossible due to health restrictions.

Lanai Cat Sanctuary came up with one innovative replacement for events — individual sponsorships of cat houses built for the felines in its care.

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