Scores of Island families face a future without money for vital early childhood education for their children, and help with leaky roofs and inadequate heating and sanitation, all because of a clerical error which resulted in the Island missing out on $2 million in state grants.

Advertisements for public hearings associated with two federal Community Development Block Grant applications — one made on behalf Edgartown, Chilmark and Aquinnah, and the other on behalf of Oak Bluffs and Tisbury — were incorrectly worded, and so the applications were thrown out.

The error was made by staff at the company which prepared the grant applications, Bailey Boyd Associates of West Harwich. The advertisements should have enumerated all the towns involved in each grant application. Instead they named only the lead applicants, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, a breach of guidelines set down by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the ultimate source of the funds.

It might be seen as a small mistake, considering it did not affect the way the money was to be disbursed, and the fact that such hearings are traditionally sparsely attended.

But the consequences were huge. The state department of Housing and Community Development, which allocates the funds, faced with applications totaling more than twice the available money, simply ruled the Vineyard out of consideration.

The decision was communicated to Island towns by Alice Boyd, chief executive officer of Bailey Boyd Associates Inc. last week.

“It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that our bid for next year’s CDBG grants has been unsuccessful,” she wrote.

“This is due to an issue with the public hearings we held for the grant, and we at Bailey Boyd Associates take full responsibility for this error. We have since learned that there are no funds remaining for an appeal. 

“We are devastated by what this means for the families that have become dependent on the assistance provided through this program and for program staff who have contributed so much to the success of these projects.”

She said she would seek other sources of funding and that she intended to submit a grant application in December for the next round of block grant funding.

However, even if next year’s grant application is successful, the money will not flow until September, meaning those dependent on the grant money will see nothing for at least eight months.

One result is that 77 Island children whose parents previously received money for child care so they could work, will now not be funded.

In last year’s successful grants, some $300,000 was awarded, with between $3,000 and $5,000 going to the parents of 42 children in Tisbury and Oak Bluffs and another 35 in Edgartown, Chilmark and Aquinnah.

It was not enough to meet the need; even before the failure of this year’s grant application, some cases were being referred elsewhere for help. That funding also has now dried up.

Ewell Hopkins, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Fund, last year secured a $100,000 grant from the Herman Foundation to help with child care assistance. About $70,000 of that money had been spent when the fund had its bank accounts frozen by the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank due to foreclosure proceedings on the failed Bradley Square development.

Mr. Hopkins said the money had helped about another 30 families.

Another consequence of the community block grant failure is that dozens of Vineyard home owners in urgent need of repairs they cannot afford will not be able to get the work done.

In past years block grant money has funded some $8 million in improvements to the homes of Islanders who earn 80 per cent or less of median income. This year’s applications sought another $1.6 million.

“This money goes to people with leaky roofs, to repair or replace heating systems, doors, windows. It goes to fix or replace septic systems which have broken down, sometimes to the point where stuff is literally flowing down the street,” said Melissa Vincent, Island program manager with The Resource Inc., the company which administers the housing rehabilitation program.

“It’s health, safety and basic necessities of life that we take care of,” she said. “For example, two years ago we had a woman, 82 years old, still working daily, who had shut off all but two rooms of her home, because it was leaking and drafty and she couldn’t afford to heat it.

“Stories like that are all over the Island.”

Mrs. Vincent noted that the grant money went to the benefit not only of the homeowners, but the tradespeople who did the work.

“We have nine Vineyard contractors and one off-Island contractor,” she said.

“In 2009 I administered $2 million and did 56 projects. By the end of this year, I’ll have done 30 projects and administered around $1.2 million. That money all stays on the Vineyard. It goes into the lumber yards, plumbers supplies, the grocery store, to putting food on the table for these people and their families.

“We don’t have funding after Dec. 31 to continue, and we’ll be out of operation for 10 months at least. We are going to submit for the 2012 grant, but we won’t find out if we’ve got funding until July 2012, and won’t be able to start until September, when the funding becomes available.

“It’s devastating for this Island,” she said, adding: “I’ve got an assistant who’s going to be out of a job. I’m going to be out of a job. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Vineyard communities are not the only ones affected. In all, eight grant applications were refused for the same reason, including four done by Bailey Boyd.

“To have this happen after 24 years [of preparing grant applications], and eight years doing them for the Vineyard, is devastating,” said Ms. Boyd.

“We submit these on an annual basis. Our grants have always been the highest-scoring grants in the commonwealth and we have always been funded in the past.

“The funds are awarded to the towns, which then hire someone to administer the grants, which is usually us. Then we go out and find someone to run both a housing rehab and child care program,” she said.

Ms. Boyd said she was “heartsick” at the suffering the error would cause.

“We are particularly concerned about the families that rely on the child care [grant money]. In those families, the subsidies were allowing the parents to work.”

As for the housing rehabilitation program she said: “We work with quite a few elderly households, where we do everything from making the home handicapped accessible to putting in new heat or replacement windows or roofs.

“We don’t do anything that is beautification, this is strictly about code violations and health and safety issues.

“All the tradespeople will be impacted. It’s tough, in this economy this program created a lot of jobs on this Island. I’ve talked to general contractors who may not have been in business today if it were not for this program.”

“The only thing we can do is make sure we do it correctly next time, in December. I will personally be putting in the legal ads.”

Cape and Islands Rep. Tim Madden said he had contacted the relevant state agencies to seek some reconsideration of the Vineyard’s treatment.

“Under the circumstances I think there was fair notice given to the Vineyard community. I fail to see how a public notice listing all the towns involved would have brought out more people,” he said.

“Secondly, it would be beneficial, I think, that if there are errors when these applications come through, that the communities should be informed as soon as possible, so they can be corrected.

“I would like to know when the applications were submitted and when they were awarded. If there was sufficient time to re-advertise and do another public hearing, all the more reason [the applicants] should have been notified.

“I’m very frustrated by this. I’m waiting for a response, but it doesn’t seem there’s any remedy.

“Ultimately it’s a federal program and it’s their requirement and they’re very strict,” Mr. Madden said.