The Atikokan Crisis Centre will get much-needed funding after the announcement last Thursday that the Ministry of Community and Social Services is increasing core funding for Violence Against Women service providers. For the ACC, this will mean an annualized two percent budget increase (equalling $15,099), as well as a one-time funding enhancement in the amount of $4,530, ACC executive director Donna Kroocmo noted Friday. While the ministry has allocated the funding to assist VAW agencies to meet the demands of inflation, such as cost of living increases for salaries, rent, and rising utility costs, as well as address legal and financial obligations, such as pay equity and higher Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premiums. But Kroocmo specified that for the ACC, this two percent increase will be used to offset pay equity. “We have to pay out pay equity to staff, as per the regulations in the Pay Equity Act; however, we were not funded by the other government body, MCSS, to do so,” she explained. She noted while staff there have been getting a one percent pay equity increase each January, the ACC’s budget has not been increasing alongside that (this is only the second core funding increase the ACC has got since 2001). “What ends up happening is your core budget becomes eroded because that money that you’re forced to pay out Jan. 1 of every year to staff in terms of wages is not reimbursed anywhere, so you have got to cut somewhere else,” said Kroocmo. As such, cutbacks were having to be made to the budget in order to support those annual pay increases. “It was a catch-22. This alleviates that pressure, at least temporarily,” added Kroocmo. While it still has to be determined, Kroocmo noted the one-shot funding enhancement probably will be used to put up a new fence at the centre in Atikokan. “I ask staff to maintain a wish list for when this happens—and it doesn’t happen often. It’s quite lengthy. It’s two pages long,” she laughed. “Now, it’s just a matter of prioritizing what we need most.” Last Thursday’s news was part of a greater announcement that the provincial government is investing more than $20 million more over the next three years to bolster community social services organizations. “This funding will help local organizations maintain and strengthen services and programs for people in need,” Community and Social Services minister Madeleine Meilleur said in a press release. “By investing in social services, we are investing in stronger, more inclusive communities for all Ontarians,” she added. “It is crucial that women receive the necessary supports to allow them to escape violent situations,” Sandra Pupatello, the minister responsible for women’s issues, said in a press release. “This increased funding will help women leave these terrible situations and allow them to rebuild their lives,” she added.< *c>More good news A second good news items for the Atikokan Crisis Centre last Thursday was a grant of more than $7,000 from the Canadian Women’s Foundation to run an educational and prevention program called the “Young Women’s Forum.” These funds were contributed to the foundation from various businesses and philanthropic organizations, such as trust funds, and businesses like Winners, Home Sense, and The Body Shoppe. “We are planning on conducting sessions with teen girls in both Fort Frances and Atikokan, educating them on the signs of dating violence, the various forms of abuse, and other topics that may be of interest to them,” said Kroocmo. The sessions will end with a weekend trip for the participants to Thunder Bay, staying overnight at the Victoria Inn, and touring Lakehead University, Confederation College, and Old Fort William. “It is our hope that a spark may be ignited that encourages them to continue their education beyond the high school level,” explained Kroocmo. “It is a self-esteem building group.” The Young Women’s Forum is expected to run in September in both Fort Frances and Atikokan. Kroocmo noted organizers will be trying to get more young women from the west end of the district to attend the forum here. The centre will reveal more details about the forum in the near future.