Citing a steep decline in income over the past two years, the board of the nonprofit Minnesota Citizens Federation Northeast announced on Tuesday that they’re calling it quits.

“There is simply too little remaining income that we can depend on, in a reliable manner, to continue our work,” said board President Kathryn Wegner, in remarks prepared for a news conference.

Formed 44 years ago as the Duluth Senior Coalition, the organization styled itself as seeking economic justice and making sure the basic needs of life are affordable to all, as staff director Buddy Robinson put it. At its heyday, Robinson said, it had more than 3,000 members.

But the organization’s income dropped from about $85,500 in 2016 to “reliably generating” about $20,000 per year now, board treasurer Leonard Luoma said.

The decline came primarily because Essentia Health canceled an agreement with the organization’s Senior Partners Care program, under which low-income people on Medicare would pay a fee of $80 and Citizens Federation qualified them to have their bills waived by local health care providers, Luoma explained. St. Luke’s canceled its agreement as well.

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Although Citizens Federation changed its program to connect patients directly to the hospitals’ financial assistance programs, memberships dropped sharply, Luoma said. More than $57,000 of its revenue came from the program in 2016. That’s down to $6,700 presently.

That means from formerly paying for two part-time staff positions, the organization can’t afford one half-time staff person now, Luoma said.

Robinson, part of the organization for 40 years, said the organization’s strength had come from the Greatest Generation who had lived through the Great Depression and World War II.

“When that generation became frail and died off, the Citizens Federation gradually declined in size and strength,” he said. “The key lesson, though, is that if they did it, others can, too. We look to the younger generations to create their own organized citizen power.”

Wegner said the board had wanted to continue.

“We feel that our mission of economic justice and our special contributions to that goal are very important and ought to keep going,” she said. “However, we saw no way to make that happen.”

One program continues

Although Minnesota Citizens Federation Northeast has ceased to exist, a newly developed presentation is available, said Hal Moore, a vice president at-large of the organization. Called: “What is universal health care and/or Medicare for all?” it is free for interested groups. To learn more, write to Citizens Federation at 424 W. Superior St., Room 200, Duluth MN 55802 or email admin@citizensfed.org.