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N. Idaho Agency For Needy Closes Doors Nicaa Files For Bankruptcy Protection; Programs Shifted To Other Providers

The debt-plagued social services agency that handled everything from food distribution to low-income housing in Idaho’s five northern counties for the past 15 years is bankrupt.

The North Idaho Community Action Agency announced late Friday night that it has filed for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. A press release, issued by former executive director Gerald Garvey, did not address the fate of 11 employees.

Garvey could not be reached Saturday for comment.

“NICAA was able to help so many due in great part to our volunteers,” he wrote. “We have had tremendous impact on our region and it’s tough to say goodbye.”

St. Vincent de Paul is taking over the senior citizens housing projects in Post Falls, Clark Fork, Tensed and Plummer, as well as a child-care nutrition program. The four former NICAA employees who administered those programs now work for St. Vincent.

The Area Agency on Aging will take over the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. NICAA’s others programs, including the food bank and low-income energy assistance, will land in the lap of the Lewiston-based Community Action Agency.

Lakewood Ranch Apartments, an 80-unit senior apartment complex in Coeur d’Alene, will be run by a Boise group.

NICAA is about $267,000 in debt, nearly half of it interest on debt for its Best Avenue building. The nonprofit agency, which is partially supported by United Way, is blaming its financial demise on the fact that it was not allowed to use federal grant money to pay that interest and building remodeling costs.

The Idaho Health and Welfare Department pulled NICAA’s $865,000 in federal grants in January. The state decided it could no longer legitimately funnel money to the insolvent organization.

NICAA appealed that decision and lost.

Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code gives a debtor protection from creditor lawsuits while it reorganizes finances and pulls together a plan to pay its debts. The NICAA press release, however, says the agency is defunct.

St. Vincent de Paul has run NICAA’s food bank since May, and will have responsibility for it until at least August. It has a temporary state grant to cover the costs of running the program.

“We would love to have the food bank permanently,” said Lynn Peterson, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul. “It really goes with our mission.”

But the Lewiston agency already was certified to permanently handle the grant money that supports a food bank.

The four NICAA employees now working for St. Vincent de Paul are operating out of donated office space at Tidyman’s because St. Vincent’s Government Way building has no extra space.

St. Vincent will use the knowledge of NICAA’s former housing officials to expand its transitory housing program, so “we can help a lot more people,” Peterson said.

NICCA’s press release said that in the last 15 years it has weatherized more than 3,000 homes, helped 90,000 people with heating bills and distributed more than 200,000 food boxes.

, DataTimes

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