Special to South Florida Times

In the seventh month of her pregnancy, Viviana Segura found herself with two young sons and no family in the U.S. and no way to take care of her family.

The Chile native turned to Hispanic Unity of Florida for assistance. The organization placed her in a safe home and gave clothes to her and her children.
Segura is not alone trying to make her way in today’s tough economic times.

For Miramar resident Tina Quant, she and her family are “the new faces of the recession.”

The family’s once six-figure income, Quant said, was reduced to a fraction of that. Through assistance provided by the Urban League of Broward County, she said, “we have regained our financial footing and that includes keeping our home.”

“What will happen to people like us?” Segura asked members of the Broward County Commission at the commission’s Sept. 14 budget public hearing held at the Governmental Center in Fort Lauderdale.

The proposed $3.3 billion county budget includes cuts of some $755,000 from Broward’s social safety net and ends the county’s partnership with Hispanic Unity and the Urban League of Broward County.

Commissioners did not deal directly with the social safety net issue but by a 6-2 vote just before the meeting ended, they rejected the proposed budget, sending Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry back to the drawing board.

For 10 years, Hispanic Unity and the Urban League of Broward County have contracted with Broward County to provide services at Family Success Services centers that include emergency assistance and case management, comprising a “safety net” for the most disadvantaged and at-risk communities.

The county itself runs six of these centers, located in Pompano Beach, Coral Springs, Hollywood and Davie and two in Lauderdale Lakes.

The centers are a one-stop source of social services information, referrals and help to individuals and families in setting goals, learning skills and accessing resources they need to build a stronger, healthier and self-sufficient family unit.

The county currently provides $455,000 to Hispanic Unity and $300,000 to the Urban League to manage the services they provide.

Josie Bacallao, Hispanic Unity president/CEO, said in an interview that if the proposed cut goes through, $332,000 of the projected saving of $755,000 will be put back into the county budget. That money will pay for five positions that will be filled by other county employees who will otherwise be laid off.

Bacallao said the six county-run centers, called Family Success Centers, will stay open and in fact their 25-member staff will increase by five.

But he said $423,000 will be cut and the two centers operating at Hispanic Unity and Urban League facilities will close and a combined total of 11 full-time staff will lose their jobs.

Germaine Smith-Baugh, Urban League’s president and CEO, in an interview, questioned whether taking away the services from her organization and Hispanic Unity is the best approach to maintaining the county’s social safety net.

“I won’t argue who does it better but will ask whether government is a better provider of social services than social services organizations that have proven they can do the work and, by [the county’s] own audit, do it cheaper.”

The next county budget hearing is scheduled for 5:01 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, at the Governmental Center, 115 S. Andrews Ave., Room 422, Fort Lauderdale.

Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net.