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Community Block Grant Makes, Breaks Budgets

IOWA CITY, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- Community and nonprofit organizations are about to get $1.1 million from the Johnson County Board of Supervisors as a part of the annual round of community block grant funding. 
It is the money that many local agencies depend on to survive, and it gets split up between more than one dozen organizations -- places that help survivors of domestic violence or those just in need of a free meal. Without those extra county dollars, many organizations say their budgets would crumble.
At the Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic, the phone rings off the hook with people looking for appointments. Last year, the clinic gave more than 2,000 people free care.  
This year, 25 percent of the clinic's budget, $105,000, will come from community block grants. 
"One of the things that our staff do very well is take advantage of every dollar, and make the most of every dollar," said clinic executive director Barbara Vinograde. 
For every dollar the clinic gets, it can give patients $5 worth of services. And even though some think free clinics will expire because of the Affordable Care Act, Vinograde does not expect to get fewer calls. 
"We do not want to remove the current safety network, which includes the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic, until we have clear evidence that it's no longer needed," Vinograde said. 
So the grant money, and future donations, are just as important to the clinic as ever, she said. 
The story is slightly different at United Action for Youth, or UAY. They depend on county dollars to act as matching funds to get federal grants to keep up services like UAY's music and arts program that serves nearly 2,000 kids in Johnson County. 
"If we didn't have this funding, we wouldn't be able to go after the larger federal grants that are available," said UAY executive director Jannette Taylor. 
This year, UAY lost a crucial federal grant that helped run its Street Outreach program that helped house hundreds of homeless children in the Iowa City area. 
"Literally 300 kids will not receive those services because we don't have the money to do so," Taylor said. 
So while the $107,000 UAY will get from the county makes up 10 percent of its budget, every penny still counts. 
The Board of Supervisors will vote on renewing the community block grants at its regular meeting on Thursday. 
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