Florida AIDS Groups Criticize Application Process for Federal Funding
Six AIDS groups in Orange County, Fla., that missed the application deadline to receive some of the county's $6.5 million in federal AIDS funding have criticized the county's proposal process, questioning whether some agencies "were treated more leniently than others," the Orlando Business Journal reports. The AIDS Resource Alliance, "one of the largest single providers of AIDS services in Orlando," missed the chance to obtain $900,000 because it submitted the proposal 59 seconds late, the Orlando Business Journal reports. The group would have used the money to offset operations expenses and to join with other AIDS organizations to create collaborative, "one-stop" offices in Lake and Osceola Counties. ARA Executive Director Donna Smith is "incensed" that all 19 of the proposals submitted on time and accepted by the county were incomplete, something she said the county had stated "was not an option." Smith said, "If they can bend that rule, why not the other? We were penalized for not being on time, but no one was penalized for being incomplete." Rick Daigneault, manager of health services for Orange County, replied that "deadlines are sacred for all of the county's proposals," and while county rules require the county to accept only completed applications, those rules also allow the county to request additional information and clarifications for the submissions (Lundine/Haner-Dorr, Orlando Business Journal, 3/19). Last year, ARA lost some of its funding because the organization turned in an incomplete application (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/7/00). Becky Cherney, president and CEO of the Central Florida Health Care Coalition, which formerly managed the distribution of funds for the state, added that the AIDS agencies "had more than a month to complete the proposals." She added, "If the county lets ARA in now, that is disparaging to those who met the deadline" (Orlando Business Journal, 3/19). Over the past few years, AIDS groups in Orange County have been suffering a "financial crunch" as a growing number of local AIDS organizations compete for federal funds (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/7/00).
Mounting a Challenge
ARA has mounted a "formal protest" to the county's refusal to accept the organization's application, but the county has "refused to consider the challenge," since only groups with applications accepted by the county can challenge the process. Because ARA's proposal was not accepted, the Business Journal reports, the group cannot challenge the proposal process. However, Smith is challenging the county's rules on the issue, stating that they may violate federal regulations that require the county to allow a challenge to the entire proposal process. Tom Flavin, communications manager for HRSA's HIV/AIDS bureau, said, "We may need to begin monitoring this grievance process more closely for those receiving the funds." Smith added that while ARA will continue to provide services to its clients without the federal dollars, it has not "given up" on the idea of obtaining the funding (Orlando Business Journal, 3/19).