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Literacy CNY suspends operations, fundraises online

Literacy CNY
Literacy CNY is a nonprofit in Syracuse that helps adults learn how to read.

Classes came to an end last month at Literacy CNY, a nonprofit that helps adults in central New York learn how to read, nearly 60 years after the nonprofit got its start. 

"We pretty much ran out of money," said Bill Kriesel, president of the Literacy CNY Board that recently had to vote to lay off the organization's three staff members and contracted teachers.

New York state owes the nonprofit $40,000 from its last contract, which ended this summer. And Kriesel said the state hasn't renewed their annual $100,000 contract, but they continued serving their roughly 500 students in the area as long as they could.

"That $40,000 used up all of our reserves and the board got to the point where we weren’t going to be able to meet our obligations going forward if we continued," He said. 

Syracuse-area Sen. Rachel May said it's a similar story for nonprofits across New York as the state faces a $14.5 billion deficit due to the pandemic.

"A lot of this has been waiting for the federal government to do something to step in and support state and local governments and they haven’t done that," May said. "So, there’s this long waiting game and the state can wait a long time but the people running these organizations can’t wait that long. They’ve got obligations to the people who work for them."

Literacy CNY has raised a few thousand dollars on the website GoFundMe and May said she has had some success in talking with state officials about allocating the remaining funds it owes the nonprofit. But Kriesel said unless their financial position changes significantly, they will likely downsize to a one-on-one tutoring outfit with volunteer teachers. Any money raised online will be used to make that possible.