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Meet the taxpayer-funded nonprofit pushing for Medicaid expansion, more state spending

Meet the taxpayer-funded nonprofit pushing for Medicaid expansion, more state spending

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
February 2, 2017

Jannus Inc. is, by many accounts, one of the largest and most influential non-profit social services organizations in Idaho.

With an annual budget of more than $15 million, Jannus operates two dozen programs that, according to executive director Karan Tucker, “promote community health, inform public policy and create economic opportunity.”

Jannus does much of its work quietly in communities across Idaho, but has not been afraid to step to the front of controversy as it did when it became the sole social services group to run the federal refugee resettlement program.

In an interview with the Idaho Statesman in December, Tucker was asked with what she and Jannus struggled. Her answer, “Being able to tell our story. ... We’ve not been good about being able to articulate the impact that a lot of these programs are making. And that’s primarily due to a lack of resources. We focus so much of our funding on the actual direct service that we haven’t found a way to fund good marketing outreach.”

Given that more than $11.3 million, or 75 percent, of Jannus’ annual budget is supported by federal taxpayers and a good deal more in state taxes, IdahoReporter.com sought out Tucker to help her tell their story. Call it a kind of reverse marketing outreach.

After an email exchange over three days, Tucker’s response was, to paraphrase, Thanks, but no thanks. Her reason, she said, was, “With many competing priorities, we do not have the resources available at this time to respond to your questions in appropriate detail.”

She did not elaborate on the priorities with which we were competing, nor did she explain what kind of resources, exactly, she needed to answer our questions. These were questions, 10 of them, Idaho Reporter emailed to her in advance to give her time to consider her responses.  

Instead, she offered to IR a statement that stressed the need for Jannus’ services and the group’s efficiency and economy in delivering them. In closing, Tucker applauded the 15,000 people served by their “120 dedicated employees working throughout the state, contributing to our shared way of life and changing lives for the better.”

Jannus, formerly known as the Mountain States Group, has been in Idaho for more than 40 years. Since 2000, its budget has grown and fluctuated from about $10 million to $15 million a year.

Though the group is a non-profit 501(c)(3), with all of the restrictions on political activity that come with it, Jannus is in the business of soliciting taxpayer and private funding to grow government programs.

Jannus offers a welter of federal programs it calls Agency for New Americans, which includes social services, education, child care and savings account services for refugees. Over $4 million in funding comprises more than 35 percent of all the federal funding Jannus received in fiscal 2016, according to the group’s financial filings.

Tucker told the Idaho Statesman the backlash against the refugees and Jannus’ work to serve them had her employees “rattled.” She declined to answer the Idaho Reporter’s question as to why employees were upset or to discuss refugee resettlement in Idaho in the context of President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration.

“For months, we were subjected to rhetoric at odds with the values of inclusion, social justice and compassion — the values at the very core of Jannus,” Tucker told the Idaho Statesman.

According to its financials, Jannus gets another $2.8 million a year in federal funding to run Idaho’s child and adults care food program. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services directs almost another $2 million to Jannus for the state’s Early Head Start program.

In fiscal 2016, Jannus had seven contracts with the State Department of Health and Welfare, valued at $1.2 million a year, according to department spokesman Tom Shanahan. He said, all but about $100,000 of that total comes from federal funding.

Jannus is allied with the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, which bills itself as a non-partisan non-profit, though it approaches its policy analysis of education and health issues from a liberal, big-government perspective.

To that end, Jannus partners with in Idaho Voices for Children and Idaho AfterSchool Network, which advocate on a broad range of children’s issues.

Lauren Necochea, director of Idaho Voices, has been a staunch advocate for Idaho to expand Medicaid. Last week, Necochea testified before the state House and Senate Health & Welfare Committee. She asserted that converting Medicaid to a block grant program, something conservatives have long proposed, could leave “Idahoans at the back of the line.”

(You can find a complete list of Jannus programs here.)

When asked by the Statesman to name the Jannus program she is most proud of, Tucker said it was the state’s trust in awarding them the contract for the state’s suicide prevention hotline.

State taxpayers fund roughly $225,000 and federal taxpayers another $150,000 a year for Jannus to run that program, now in its fourth year.

IdahoReporter.com wanted to ask Tucker why the suicide prevention hotline stands out to her, but, well, she didn’t respond.

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