Who Will Manage Cincinnati's Human Services Funding?

Jan 7, 2020

Cincinnati could soon make changes to the way it distributes funding to human services agencies.  

Since 2010, the city has had a contract with United Way to administer the process and remove the city administration from the selections.  

Now the United Way says it wants to end that relationship.  

The city manager has proposed finding another third party to do the work, but so far none have come forward.  

The other options are for council or the administration to run the process.

Credit Courtesy of the city of Cincinnati

Council Member Greg Landsman said the human services contracts should be "in house, and performance based."

"What results do we want to see, for example," Landsman said. "It shouldn't just be youth employment. But what are the results that we're looking for? How many young people are we wanting to see employed? And the same is true for addiction services - what kinds of treatment results do we want to see? And so council should set the results and then have the administration run the process."

Council Member David Mann doesn't think council should do it. He dealt with that scenario many years ago when he was on council.

"It evolves into, for want of a better term, crony decision making and that is, so-and-so is friends with so-and-so, that agency then gets an allocation instead of thoughtfully and with principal and some eye on what we're trying to achieve choosing amongst agencies," Mann said.

The city manager said in a report that if city administration takes over the process it will cost about a half-million dollars to staff such a program.

The manager said he needs a decision soon on how council wants to proceed so there's no disruption in funding.

In November, City Council 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 at the time 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."

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 emergency wrap-around services (direct support for anti-poverty programs)
  • 11.5% to addiction prevention
  • 3.5% to violence prevention
  • 3% to senior services

Currently 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.