United Way of Northwest Vermont
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Nonprofits may be forced to cut services as they struggle with funding and staffing shortages

United Way CEO Jesse Bridges talking on a WCAX video


Click here to watch the video story

By Katharine Huntley, WCAX

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Nonprofits in our region are still struggling to find workers despite the job market bouncing back. And that lack of labor is affecting services.

The Howard Center social service nonprofit is still looking for more than 100 people to work for their organization.

“It’s still a very large problem for us and we’re still feeling the stress of not having enough staff to run our services in the way that we wish to,” said Beth Holden of the Howard Center.

Right now, they have 140 job openings out of about 1,600 positions. They expect more employees to leave as the summer continues.

“It’s hard work on its own, layer on top the pandemic, layer on top the staffing shortfalls and you’re really seeing that strain. So then we’re further losing people or we’re causing more harm, right? We’re putting, we’re making it so that our employees need the service, very services that we’re trying to provide for others. And that’s not a good cycle to be in,” said Jesse Bridges of the United Way of Northwest Vermont.

Holden at Howard says there are other reasons for the staff shortage, too. The latest data on people leaving the Howard Center shows employees often leave for career advancement opportunities elsewhere. They also move out of the area, often to be closer to family.

“It’s a different world,” Holden said. “So I think Howard Center is working really hard to be a multigenerational workforce. And what kind of supports do younger people coming up in the workforce for the first time, what do they need?”

It’s a perfect storm that could result in cuts.

“Adjusting to the post-COVID world also means adjusting to funding that doesn’t exist anymore. And that means two things; it means programs or services can’t continue or it means that they have to continue in an abridged way,” Holden said.

The United Way points out nonprofits can’t just raise prices like other industries.

“We can’t just charge Medicaid more for reimbursement. We don’t just get to decide to do to charge more. We can’t just ask more of our donors that also have less because of inflation and other pressures and housing prices. So that’s where we don’t because we don’t have that economic choice,” Bridges said.

Many nonprofits have contracts with the state which caps the amount of money they receive in a year for the services they provide. They hope to raise those rates in the future.