Changes Could Be Coming To Cincinnati's Human Services Funding Process

Oct 14, 2019

Since 2010, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, with an advisory committee, has administered the process of deciding which organizations receive human services funding from the city.  

Council at the time set up the system to remove the city administration and council members from those decisions.  

Last week City Council deadlocked on a proposal to change that.  

Three members asked for a report on how to remove United Way from the process, and bring the decision-making back to the city, or turn it over to a different third party.  

Council Member Tamaya Dennard said the current system is not working.

"A lot of the organizations that they fund are white-led organizations, but the people who are being served are black," Dennard said. "So, I would be happy if they would say, 'Well let's fund more black organizations,' but how many times we have to keep asking? We've been saying this for years and nothing's changed.  Maybe this is political suicide for me, maybe you all know something that I don't, but what I'm saying is that we can't keep doing things the same way."

Opponents of changing the process are worried about returning politics to human services funding decisions.

"We're deciding now that we're taking United Way out of the human services process, we're just asking for a way to do it," said Council Member David Mann. "I think it would be a very unfortunate decision. I don't think it's helpful to put politics right back in the middle of it. I lived that way in my earlier service on council."

While the measure failed last week, it could be re-introduced in the future.

This year, the city's general fund budget includes $4.8 million of human services funding that's administered through the United Way process.

The priorities for those dollars are:

  • 31.5% to reduce homelessness
  • 31.5% for comprehensive workforce development support
  • 17% for mergency wrap-around services (direct support for anti-poverty programs)
  • 11.5% to addiction prevention
  • 3.5% to violence prevention
  • 3% to senior services

The United Way and advisory committee submit its funding recommendations to City Council for approval.  After that the city's Dept. of Community and Economic Development signs contracts with the organizations who receive funding.