Starting in January, local agencies that assist with housing for people with HIV/AIDS will be reimbursed from the city much earlier for their services. As detailed earlier this month in the Gambit ("Funding for AIDS Services Delayed"), the process for paying these organizations is notoriously slow, with payments often lagging behind nine months from when services are rendered. It has forced many of these groups to take out loans until the city pays them, and one of the smaller organizations, Brotherhood Incorporated, had to cease its housing program for seven months lasty while waiting for reimbursement.
Councilmember At-Large Arnie Fielkow says he has been given assurances by the Nagin Administration that the city will select the agencies that will receive federal funding under the "Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA)" in December. The city will then start making payments in January, which is when the federal program's calendar year begins.
Each year, under the HOPWA program, the feds award the New Orleans area with about $3 million for housing for people with HIV/AIDS. Because the grant is determined by a formula based on the number of people affected with HIV/AIDS the city is guaranteed the award. During the past year, Fielkow and District B councilmember Stacy Head have held committee meetings with city officials and the HIV/AIDS organizations to determine why the payment process is so delayed. At Wednesday's budget hearing, Fielkow brought the matter up again with New Orleans assistant chief administrative officer Cary Grant, telling Grant the current process "put people out of business..." and asking the city to pay the agencies while awaiting the federal grant.
Grant agreed with Fielkow, saying, "Let us work out the details of it, so that we can make sure that it happens."