Mass. AG funds housing mediation in Berkshires
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
PITTSFIELD -- The Berk shire County Regional Housing Authority has re ceived $30,000 from the state attorney general’s office for consumer and mediation programs.
The BCHA’s court-connected mediation dispute resolution program had been hampered for the last three years by a deep cut in state funding. Over 30 percent of its funding was cut for fiscal 2010, in addition to the elimination of a $75,000 earmark from the state trial court.
Director Brad Gordon said his organization has "bootstrapped" the mediation program to other initiatives to keep it running since then but had been "running out of creative options."
The state funding won’t make up for the loss of the entire $75,000 earmark, Gordon said, but it will allow the program to become more productive. The mediation program helps solve landlord-tenant disputes and prevents renters from becoming homeless. The funding becomes available on July 1.
"We still have less than 50 percent of the funding that we have had historically," he said. "But what it allows me to do is to keep the program viable. Keeping it creatively bootstrapped to other programs is very difficult to do."
The other BCHA-run initiative that received funding is a Local Consumer Program overseen by consumer counselor/mediator Kate Alex ander. LCPs partner with the state attorney general’s office to provide information to callers concerning state and federal consumer protection laws. The attorney general’s office uses that information to identify trends. It may also form the basis for legal action.
The BCHA also applied to the state for funding for both programs last year, but only received funds for the LCP.
"This year we submitted both and they funded both of them," Gordon said.
The two local programs are among the 15 Face-to-Face mediation programs and 18 local consumer programs from across Massachusetts to receive a total of $1.5 million in funding from the state attorney general’s office for fiscal 2013.
The funding was made available through the Consumer Aid Fund Grants initiative, which provides funds for new or existing grantees from across the state.
"These local programs are important community partners throughout the commonwealth," state Attorney Gen eral Martha Coakley said in a statement. "They provide guidance, resources and voluntary mediation to consumers who may be victims of fraud, deception or unfair business practices."
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