A 55 per cent cut in federal funding has left the CEO of Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador looking for answers, and digging into the organization's own pockets to keep its summer programming going for this year.
Mark Bradbury told CBC News on Monday the cut translates to over $25,000 in lost funding, which would have been used to hire post-secondary students to serve as counsellors for the Easter Seals summer camps.
The camps offer summer activities and a social experience to between 25 and 30 people with disabilities who largely aren't able access a traditional summer camp, Bradbury said.
"They're that popular that when we opened up registration, every slot was filled within two hours," Bradbury said. "It's the young kids' really only opportunity to take part in a summer camp.… It's a real important component for the community here."
The change in funding means the number of counsellors could have been cut in half, which would have limited the number of children the programs could accept.
Bradbury said the organization was able to offset the lost funds for this year, but it did come at a cost: diverting funds donated to support other causes, including the accessible park they hope to build in the future.
"It hurts," he said.
"We don't understand, and we don't want a precedent set. Because we may not have the money next year to be able to offset that 55 per cent cut."
Bradbury said he and the rest of Easter Seals N.L. are left looking for answers as to why the funding was cut, as the decision came through an email from the federal government with little explanation three weeks ago.
This isn't the first time funding has been cut in this way during his tenure as CEO, he said, citing an instance when funding was cut but restored the following year after the area's member of Parliament toured their facility andm according to Bradbury, saw the importance of the funding.
In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for the federal Department of Employment and Social Development said the department can't comment individual cases but noted applications often exceed the amount of funding available.
"Due to oversubscription, not all eligible projects are funded and organizations that receive funding may not receive the level of funding requested, the amount of funding received in previous years, or the number of weeks requested," the statement said.
"It really doesn't make sense to us," said Bradbury. "This is really, really important to the community and it hits the need for camps for persons with disabilities really really hard right here. It doesn't make sense."