PWAs face Ryan White cuts
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Advocates for people living with HIV and AIDS are concerned about federal cuts from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act. Some San Francisco city leaders, however, are expressing commitment to restoring funding.
For the fiscal year July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013, the city is facing a drop in Ryan White funding of approximately $4.7 million, along with a reduction of about $2.5 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mayor Ed Lee has already approved approximately $1.5 million to cover a cut in the funds through the current fiscal year.
Gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, who called for a recent board committee hearing on the reductions, said he hopes that when the mayor submits his budget to the Board of Supervisors by the end of May, he "will backfill everything, or close to everything." The cuts would be "devastating to the community," Wiener said.
"Backfilling these federal cuts is my number one priority in the budget process, and I say that as a member of the budget committee," he added.
Ryan White money is primarily for services for people living with AIDS, while CDC funding is geared toward HIV prevention services, Wiener said.
After the mayor submits his budget, the board's budget committee has until June 30 to act on Lee's proposals.
"As we face continued budget challenges, I remain committed to funding critical care and treatment for San Franciscans living with HIV/AIDS and will continue to invest in services for the city's most vulnerable," Lee said in comments emailed by spokesman Francis Tsang.
The city controller's office is projecting a $170 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins in July. That figure could grow to $495 million by July 2015.
Michael Smithwick is the executive director of Maitri, a San Francisco nonprofit that provides services to people living with HIV and AIDS who are in need of either hospice care or 24-hour nursing care. The agency, which has a budget of about $2.5 million, could get a cut of approximately $246,000 for the fiscal year that begins in July because of the drop in Ryan White money.
Smithwick said Maitri's not in "distress mode," but two staff positions have been eliminated since last June, and the nonprofit has "cut to the bone" in terms of expenses.
He said if they don't get the money, they'll have to take "much more serious measures to try to be in a balanced situation."
Frank Stevens, 54, became a resident of Maitri earlier this month. He's been living with AIDS and pneumonia, and he's been hospitalized numerous times in recent years.
Stevens is hopeful that he'll get his strength back, and has held on to the room he rents in the Tenderloin. He expects to stay at Maitri for at least three months.
"I think the government is going too far trying to cut the funding for AIDS," he said. He said the reductions put people living with HIV and AIDS on the "back shelf," and many more people will get sick.
Larkin Street Youth Services, which works to help young people with housing and other services, is another San Francisco agency that could be effected by Ryan White cuts. The agency has a budget of $14 million.
According to information provided by Larkin Street, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees Ryan White funding, eliminated youth-specific grants through a recent request for proposals.
Larkin Street receives about $578,000 in Ryan White funding, including approximately $76,000 for subcontracts with Bay Area Young Positives and the city health department's community health programs for youth.
The nonprofit is set to receive only $80,000 of the funding as of August 1. With that cut, the agency will no longer be able to subcontract with the other two groups.
Among other changes, the decrease means Larkin Street won't be able to offer HIV testing and counseling, the agency said in a fact sheet.
Salaries appear safe
Whatever budget cuts occur at Maitri and Larkin Street, it appears that their directors' salaries are safe.
Smithwick's salary is $95,000, the same as when he started his job in January 2011. He said he doubts that he'd take a pay cut.
"Frankly, I'm making half of what I made in the corporate world," Smithwick said. "... I don't know if I'd be able to live on less."
Questions about the salary of Larkin Street Executive Director Sherilyn Adams that were emailed to spokeswoman Nicole Garroutte, including whether Adams would take a pay cut, were ignored.
According to the nonprofit's IRS documents covering July 2009 through June 2010, Adams's reportable compensation from Larkin Street was about $151,000.