Nonprofit Groups Urged to Examine Y2K’s Impact on Their Missions

WASHINGTON — Nonprofit groups are being encouraged to start
thinking about how the Y2K computer problem might affect their
social missions.

One area of concern is food banks that distribute canned goods
to the needy, said Norman Dean, executive director of the Center
for Y2K and Society, a Washington-based nonprofit formed six months
ago with grants from a dozen foundations.

‘Many food banks are dependent on donations,’ said Dean. ‘Will
concern over Y2K cause people to keep food on shelves rather than
donate canned goods during annual food drives in the fall?’

Dean’s group suggests that organizations hold their collection
drives earlier in the fall so that they still have time to pursue
other sources if necessary.

The group has established a grant program so that community
organizations can apply for funding to assess a particular
situation, learning lessons that might be of value to other

The center will award a first round of $10,000 to $25,000 grants
this month and plans to accept more applications for July. Smaller
nonprofit organizations in rural and inner-city areas usually do
not have the resources of larger and medium-sized groups to begin
to anticipate possible Y2K problems, said Margaret Anderson, the
center’s policy director.

One proposal the center is considering would evaluate some of
the smaller health clinics in Washington, D.C., to determine what
Y2K-related problems could hurt them. ‘What happens if Medicaid in
the District of Columbia is not available or paid reliably?’ asked
Anderson. ‘What if there is more pressure from stockpiling of
pharmaceuticals, what happens to the donation programs?’

Anderson said there is particular worry over the Medicaid
program, which provides insurance coverage for many poor children
and disabled people and is distributed with less federal government
oversight than the better-known Medicare program.

Because Medicaid is typically disbursed by the states, and
sometimes by local governments, there is less certainty that
payments will be easily doled out in the early part of next year.
If states have computer problems with their Medicaid systems, this
could not only affect individual patients, but also nursing homes
and other institutions that rely heavily on the money.

The center is working on a report card to help organizations
like nursing homes evaluate their contingency plans to see if they
are compatible with other groups. The report card, which could be
used by either local governments or community groups, will include
about 10 questions to help assess how ready a community is to
effectively deal with problems if computer systems fail next year,
including health care, infrastructure and public safety.

The report card will be available on the center’s web site,, and will
also be distributed by the group through various nonprofits and
events, said Anderson.

Contacts: Margaret Anderson, director of policy, Center
for Y2K and Society, Washington, D.C., 202-775-3267. Norman Dean,
executive director, Center for Y2K and Society, Washington, D.C.,

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