$32K overdue payment is en route to food bank
A $32,000 overdue payment from a federal program will help ease some of the hardship at the Westmoreland County Food Bank this fall.
The state Department of Agriculture, which distributes federal funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, approved a $32,000 payment for the food bank in mid-October, said Joe Quattrocchi, director of the bureau of food distribution for the state. The money is part of nearly $100,000 that food bank officials said was due to the nonprofit group for distributing food bought by the program between January and September of this year.
Marlene Kozak, CEO of the food bank, said she was delighted when she got word last week that the money was on it's way.
“That's wonderful – we can use everything that we can get,”Kozak said. “We have needed the cash flow.”
Quattrocchi said that a paperwork snafu held up payments to food banks across the state.
“We see it all the time,” Quattrocchi said. “(The forms submitted by food banks) come in late or are not correct; sometimes there's a problem between the county and the agency. We've got all the numbers reconciled now.”
Kozak said food bank records show that the it is owed about $44,000 dating back to 2010. However, Quattrocchi said, all payments have been made to the food bank.
Money has been tight at the food bank, which serves about 7,200 families each month. Earlier this year, officials used half of the food bank's reserve funds to repair a leaky roof, replace its freezer and upgrade the heating and fan system in the warehouse. The agency is required to have $1 million in its accounts — currently, it has less than $500,000, Kozak said.
This fall, officials cut back on some of the perishable items distributed to clients by putting half the typical amount of pasta and spaghetti sauce in the monthly food boxes. The amount of state money the agency receives to buy food with has been cut by $142,000 during the past three years, and a grant the group typically receives from the United Way hasn't been released yet.
“Every possible state and federal program is just being decimated,” Kozak said. “We're just hoping we can make (the cuts) up through a really successful fundraising season.”
Recouping the overdue federal funding is only part of the fiscal puzzle, Kozak said. While receiving late money is better than receiving no money, it makes budgeting very difficult, she said. The time near Thanksgiving and Christmas are the agency's busiest, both for fundraising and distribution. Not knowing when money is going to come in makes that time even more trying.
“It's difficult to try and manage our fundraising when we just don't know what's going on,” Kozak said. “It's now November, and we're just waiting, waiting and waiting.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or firstname.lastname@example.org.