Women’s Opportunity Center provides safe space to develop back into the workforce

Women's Opportunity Center located on 315 N. Tioga St. in Ithaca.

ITHACA, N.Y.– After being forced to lay off seven employees due to a lapse of funding from the state, the Women's Opportunity Center got word on Sept. 30 that they would be receiving the funds owed to them by the end of the week.

Forty percent of the center’s overall budget and 100% of the payroll budget is funded by the NYS Displaced Homemaker Program grant, which Fields said the center hadn’t received since March.

“We haven’t received any update since then,” Fields said. “We haven’t heard from the state saying it was temporary or because of coronarvirus. There have been no updates.”

After the Ithaca Times reached out to the state’s Department of Labor and Division of the Budget, it was confirmed that funding is expected to resume by the end of next week, however at a 20% reduction.

Freeman Klopott from the Division of the Budget’s office blamed the lack of funding on “the federal failure to deliver resources necessary to offset devastating revenue losses for states due to the pandemic…”

The Women’s Opportunity Center is a non-profit that provides free services to women facing barriers to gaining or retaining employment and is fully funded by donations and grants.

In addition to its office in Ithaca, the center also has an office in Syracuse, though the physical building was surrendered to cut down on costs and the remaining employee is working remotely. While in limbo with funding this spring and summer, Fields said the executive director had been working on securing other federal and county grants, though the headway made was not enough to cover the losses from the lack of state funding. 

Despite this, Fields said the team is choosing to remain optimistic and that there are no immediate plans to reduce services for the people who need them.

“We’re still serving all our clients as we were before,” she said. “We have no plans to cut back...everything has been remote anyway as we’ve transitioned to online learning.”

As of the end of the day Sept. 25, the Women’s Opportunity Center had received a voucher from the state for their March funding, but not for April-September.

The WOC is accepting donationsonline at http://www.womensopportunity.org/ or by mail to 315 N. Tioga St. Ithaca, NY 14850.

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