MCAG meeting on Continuum of Care program spurs confusion

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comJuly 15, 2013 

The Merced County Association of Governments held a public workshop Tuesday to discuss the Continuum of Care program, but some members say they felt misled about the purpose of the meeting.

The goal of the workshop was to outline the responsibilities of Continuum of Care, said Lori Flanders, MCAG spokeswoman. The staff asked those attending the meeting to identify priorities for the program, which brings in about $400,000 a year in federal funding for local homeless programs.

A list of priorities was compiled, and attendees voted for their top choices: ongoing funding, effective use of grant money, and reorganizing Continuum of Care to be more "inclusive and transparent."

However, several members said they believed the discussion would focus on a recent recommendation by MCAG to subcontract the program to another coordinator.

"I'm stunned because I actually thought they were having an informational meeting about the subcontract and how interested agencies could apply," said Candice Adam-Medefind, Healthy House executive director.

MCAG has assisted with applying for the federal grants since 2003, but decided to relinquish its role after funding requirements of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development became too cumbersome.

At its June 20 meeting, MCAG officials announced a recommendation to subcontract the Continuum of Care program to Jeanette Garcia — an administrative analyst and MCAG employee.

Continuum of Care board members criticized the decision, saying other agencies and nonprofits weren't given the opportunity to compete for the $78,000 contract because it wasn't properly posted.

"It almost sounds like Jeannette is going to be approved, but no one else knew how to apply or throw their name into the hat," said Renee Davenport, a member of the Continuum of Care executive board. "What if there's other people who want to apply? We talk about transparency, and you resist that."

Flanders said MCAG posted a "request for interest" announcement regarding the contract on the city, county and MCAG websites for 10 days, and no agencies responded.

Adam-Medefind said she might have presented the idea to her agency's board if more time had been given. "When you put out a letter and only give people 10 days to reply, it isn't enough time to think about it," she said.

Flanders said the quick turnaround was because MCAG's contract expired in June, and officials needed to move quickly to ensure no loss to funding.

"I think because it is such a complex program, it cannot be an overnight decision, so I think we did the best we could with the timeline," Flanders said.

Garcia, who ran Continuum of Care a couple of years ago, said she expressed interest in the program because she didn't want to see grantees lose funding for housing programs.

"We just have to meet certain requirements and, if we don't do it, we won't be eligible for funding," Garcia said. "I have direct experience performing those obligations that we have under the contract we have with HUD."

As part of the subcontract, Garcia also would get technical assistance from Urban Initiatives, a group from Southern California.

The recommendation to subcontract the program to Garcia will be brought to MCAG's governing board for action July 18.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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