Budget cuts for Open Access Connections

A couple of weeks ago I posted information on a report (and event) sponsored by Open Access Connections (formerly known as Twin Cities Community Voice Mail) to address the broadband needs of people who are homeless. So I was sad when Carol Walsh from DEED sent me word that Open Access Connections was going to be seeing some deep budget cuts. According to Minnesota Public Radio

St. Paul-based Open Access Connections did not receive a $37,000 grant it had been expecting from the Department of Human Services, board chair Mike Menner said today. The nonprofit has also lost $20,000 in funding from private foundations. The cuts amount to about one-fourth of the nonprofit’s annual budget.

Department of Human Services spokesperson Beth Voigt confirmed that the agency cut grants to several organizations, including the voicemail program. Voigt said the cuts were needed because the state had been relying on $10.6 million in one-time federal stimulus dollars to fund homelessness prevention and related programs. That funding expired on June 30. State funding for homeless shelters has not changed, Voigt said, despite rising demand.

Faced with increased homelessness throughout the state, the agency also decided to cut back on some grants to metro-area programs so that it can fund new shelters in Greater Minnesota, Voigt said.

I wouldn’t presume to know to where the funds are best spent. I suspect we are looking at many difficult cuts in the future but it is unfortunate to see reduced access to technology when for many people the connection to technology was a way to stay in communication with family, prospective employers, healthcare providers and others. Ironically it was just this summer that the United Nations released a report declaring Internet access a human right an earlier this week that Minnesota’s own Christopher Mitchell quoted Comcast president David Cohen is calling broadband access the “rights issue for the 21st century.”

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Funding, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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