Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Amigos Del Valle hurting financially

Amigos Del Valle hurting financially:
MISSION — Senior care provider Amigos Del Valle is reporting unspecified cash flow problems that could impact its food delivery and transportation services.

Interim Director Jaime Garza said staff was still assessing the nonprofit’s finances, but the problem seems to lie with their nutrition program, which feeds approximately 3,000 seniors across the Rio Grande Valley.

Garza just took over the top post Monday, following longtime director Isaias Aguayo’s resignation last week. Aguayo could not be reached for comment.

"Some programs are not bringing in the revenue to cover expenses, particularly our nutrition program," Garza said. "We had these problems in the past and have continued to deliver the same number of meals … now we’re looking at cutting routes, trying to deliver the same at less cost, but it’s really hard to say."

From 2003 to 2004, Amigos Del Valle’s cost to run the nutrition program increased almost 10 percent, to $2.6 million, according to the latest available audit reports. Over that same period, revenues — the majority of which come through state and federal grants — decreased slightly.

While the 2005 audit report will not be available until next month, Garza said high gas prices and the cost of maintaining their aged vehicle fleet — the buses used to transport seniors are 13 years old on average — has only worsened their financial situation.

"We deliver meals Valleywide and we have a Valley-wide transportation system for the elderly, so the fuel costs really put us in a pinch," Garza said.

"Amigos Del Valle has been around since 1974, and in that time we’ve had our peaks and valleys. This is a valley, but we’re looking for strategies to improve our financial situation… I’m confident we’ll do well."

Amigos Del Valle reported no cuts in programs or to its 107 employee staff, and calls to the agencies that both fund and contract with Amigos Del Valle yielded no reports of declining service. But how much longer that will remain the case is questionable.

Congress has already cut funding to its Community Development Block Grant Program, through which Amigos Del Valle received $123,000 in 2004 but is expecting to receive far less once those cuts are realized.

And President Bush is proposing a $2.2 billion cut to domestic programs for 2007, which could reduce the federal grant money available for housing and senior services, Amigos’ primary source of income.

"We could be in line. They’ve already hit Medicare and Medicaid. We won’t know until the regulations come out," Garza said.

"We’ve fared well during our existence, but that’s not to say we’re not under someone’s radar.


James Osborne covers PSJA and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4428.
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