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Two Brooklyn Pre-K Programs Going Broke Awaiting City Funding

By Katie Honan | December 8, 2014 7:29am
 The director of Little Nest's two locations, including the Church Avenue location pictures, has gone into her personal funds while waiting for money. 
The director of Little Nest's two locations, including the Church Avenue location pictures, has gone into her personal funds while waiting for money. 
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DNAinfo/Michael Ventura

BROOKLYN — The director of two universal pre-K programs says she hasn’t been paid by the city yet and is surviving only on temporary loans — which the city says is a “common occurrence.”

Little Nest and Little Nest-Windsor Terrace both opened a full-day universal pre-K in September, teaching 30 students at both locations, according to operator Kathleen Fink.

She hired two teachers, two teaching assistants and built the classrooms from scratch with furniture, supplies and teaching tools.

But she’s still waiting on nearly $60,000 owed to her by the Department of Education. So far she has only been paid multiple “bridge” loans, which the city makes available with private and public funds to UPK centers and other nonprofits waiting on contracts to be approved.

“I don’t have enough money to pay payroll,” Fink, 39, said. She even said she’s dipped into her own personal funds to help cover costs and has not taken her salary. If she isn't paid, she won't be able to cover her costs on Dec. 20, she said. 

If the contract went according to plan, she was supposed to have received $65,190 by now — but instead only has an interest-free loan for $40,000 for her 216 Seeley St. location, she said.

At her second pre-k at 511 Church Ave., she was expected to have been paid $69,680 and is operating the site with a $38,000 loan, she said.

Programs receive $10,000 per student, paid out incrementally through June 2015. The schools were also supposed to receive a lump-sum in September, which Fink is still waiting on.

Fink was told by the DOE they’re not sure when she’ll get the lump sum money.

“I haven’t been able to get a straight answer about what the process is,” she said. “We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place...It’s purgatory.”

The bridge loans are distributed through the “cash flow loan program” from The Fund for the City of New York, which provides interest-free loans for nonprofits and other organizations awaiting payment on city contracts, according to the program.

Officials from the DOE said it’s a “common occurrence” for organizations to subsist on loans while awaiting contract approval.

But the Seeley Street location is unable to receive further funding because programs with approved contracts are ineligible, and are waiting for payment from the DOE. The city has made additional temporary loans available for the Church Avenue location, but neither have gotten paid by the city on their contracts.

The DOE refused to say how many other universal pre-K programs have not received funding.

A spokeswoman for the DOE said they have been in touch with Little Nest about how to receive additional bridge loan funds.

“The Division of Early Childhood works closely with each pre-K program, serving over 53,000 children, to ensure each site has all necessary funds to support high-quality learning,” said Devora Kaye.

“We’ve been in touch with this program, continue to monitor it closely and we are providing ongoing support.”

Neither program is in danger of closing, Fink said.

She plans to meet with parents next week to brainstorm ways to make ends meet

and is still trying to figure out how to pay her four teachers and four teaching assistants.

“We’re now approaching the end of 2014. I am not independently wealthy,” she said.

“I do not have any more money I can put into this.”