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Queens Chronicle

Avella bills backed by community groups

Lottery game would boost local organizations

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Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:05 am, Thu Sep 13, 2012.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) is rallying support behind his effort to start a new lottery game that would fund community groups and service organizations.

Avella has sponsored two bills that would establish a Community Grant Fund to be funded with the proceeds of a new scratch-off game.

Many of the groups that would benefit were formerly supported by discretionary funds that members of the state Senate and Assembly would use to funnel state money to organizations in their districts.

In a press conference held at Borough Hall on Aug. 29, Avella and others said those groups have had to pay the price since state funding was cut off.

“Youth groups, senior centers, cultural organizations and little leagues provide essential services and rely on discretionary funding to survive,” Avella said in a statement issued by his office.

“These groups are certainly not pork,” Avella continued. “With declining sources of funding, these groups need a dedicated Community Grant Fund. My legislation is an innovative way to provide these groups with the funding they desperately need.”

A number of recent scandals, including several in Queens, led to popular outcry against discretionary funding, and Gov. Cuomo has largely vetoed lawmakers’ earmarks since he took office.

The most recent case involves state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), who was arrested on Aug. 27 for allegedly funneling state money into a nonprofit charity she founded with her niece and a former aide.

Avella was joined last week by representatives from 11 organizations including senior centers, crime victim advocates and cultural groups.

“I am involved with numerous not-for-profit organizations and one has already been dissolved after 35 years, and others are on the ropes,” said Jim Trent, president of the Queens County Farm Museum.

Others voicing support include the Jamaica Estates-Holliswood-South Bayside Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Queens Chapter 32 of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

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