Distribution of Ryan White Funding Delayed Six Months in New Orleans, Officials Say
The distribution of $7 million in Ryan White Program funding to New Orleans HIV/AIDS agencies that provide treatment to more than 4,000 HIV-positive people has been delayed by six months, Fran Lawless, director of Mayor Ray Nagin's Office of Health Care Policy, said at a city council meeting Thursday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.
According to Lawless, who testified before the council's Housing and Human Needs Committee, the city received the money March 1 but did not send out grant award notices to medical case management agencies until June and did not finalize contracts, which are required for funding to be spent, until October. In explaining the reasons for the delay, Lawless said some agencies were slow to file spending invoices and blamed "implementation problems" for the long contracting process, saying that funding "will flow better from now on."
Lawless "seemed reluctant to accept council members' suggestions that grant applicants be reviewed before the annual federal funding is announced each March" and could not indicate when next year's funding would be available, the Times-Picayune reports. She added that her staff members only "sit in on the review" of grant applications and must defer to the city's chief administrative office in making final decisions under an executive order by Nagin.
David Munroe -- chair of the board of the group In This Together, which had to close this past summer because of insufficient funding -- said the number of HIV/AIDS cases in New Orleans is increasing, particularly among low-income residents. Council member Stacy Head said she was astonished that Lawless' office includes seven employees tasked with distributing funding. "We have departments with much larger budgets operating with two to three people," she said.
According to Lawless, New Orleans lost its Ryan White funding during former Mayor Marc Morial's administration because it failed to submit its application to HHS on time. She added that she intends to alter the city's contracting process to allow multiple-year agreements with service providers so their funding is not cut off every March (Hammer, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 10/31).