Wednesday, July 1, 2009

PathWays PA Special Budget Alert - July 1, 2009

Today is the beginning of the new state fiscal year and Pennsylvania is currently without a budget. Until one is agreed upon, many important issues and programs will remain at serious risk. It is imperative to let legislators know what programs Pennsylvania cannot afford to cut.

To help stay up to date, PathWays PA will send a Budget Alert every Wednesday until the budget is complete. Particular attention will be given to specific programs, such as Industry Partnerships and Child Care Work Subsidies, which provide Pennsylvania workers with training and supports so they can work even in these tough economic times.

For more information throughout the week on the budget and other issues, be sure to check out the PathWays PA Policy Blog.

A Personal Story: Zee Hurst

For PathWays PA client Zee Hurst and thousands of other Pennsylvanians, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provided important access to healthcare at a time when no other options were available.

Ms. Hurst began relying on CHIP for her children after she was laid off from an insurance company. "Even with my knowledge of the healthcare system, I could not find affordable coverage for my children," she said. "Both of my children suffer from asthma, and without CHIP, they would have to go without the nebulizers and treatments they need to be healthy."

CHIP did more than provide physical health coverage: it gave Ms. Hurst's son the opportunity to obtain counseling after his father died. "My son was a great student until his father passed, and then he began getting into trouble at school," she said. "Once he got coverage from CHIP, we were able to help him get counseling, and his grades have improved ever since."

During the past three years, CHIP has provided comprehensive health insurance coverage for thousands of children throughout Pennsylvania who would not have been eligible without the Cover All Kids program. However, current budget proposals rescind this CHIP provision, which could result in up to 12,000 kids being cut from the program.

Even during an economic crisis, it is important to pay attention to the long-term effects of short-term cuts. The Cover All Kids program remains among the services that are vital to families in Pennsylvania.

CHIP - Cover All Kids

Take Action! During the past three years, CHIP has provided comprehensive health insurance coverage for thousands of children throughout Pennsylvania who would not have been eligible without the Cover All Kids program.

* However, current budget proposals rescind this CHIP provision, which could result in up to 12,000 kids being cut from the program.
* Even during an economic crisis, it is important to pay attention to the long-term effects of short-term cuts.
* A recent report from Rice University puts the cost of health insurance through age 18 at $7,451, while the benefits equate to as much at $15,000.

Industry Partnerships

Take Action! Industry Partnerships are consortiums that allow employers to improve and expand their workforce by bringing together companies committed to the development of their workforce.

* This program provides workers with access to training that gives them the skills necessary to maintain jobs and obtain employment with sufficient wages so workers can adequately support their families.
* In Pennsylvania, more than 6,300 businesses are involved with more than 70 Industry Partnerships across the state and more than 70,000 workers have been trained since 2005.
* On average, those workers have seen their wages rise by 6.62 percent within the first year after receiving the training.

Child Care Work Subsidies

Take Action! The Child Care Works Subsidies allow parents to afford to work by assisting them with the expense of child care.

* For many parents the cost of child care may be more than they bring home in a paycheck.
* Currently in Pennsylvania, over 16,000 are eligible for the child care subsidies but are currently on the waitlist, where some families remain for months.
* In the meantime, they must pay more than they can afford for child care, provide childcare through an unreliable patchwork of friends, family, or substandard facilities, or risk losing their jobs at a time when employment is hard to find.

Adult Education and Family Literacy

Take Action! Adult education and family literacy are especially important during this recession to ensure that families have the opportunity to gain the education they need to be or become self sufficient.

* These services have seen an increased demand in recent months.
* According to a new report from the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board, over 202,000 adults in Philadelphia do not have a high school diploma, and 40 percent of Pennsylvania adults struggle with basic literacy skills.
* Overlooked and Undercounted: Struggling to Make Ends Meet in Pennsylvania shows that 40.9 percent of all Pennsylvania households have a high school education or less, and of those households, 49% of those with less than a high school education earn less than the Self-Sufficiency Standard

Budget Proposals

The Latest: According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, legislators spent time at the Governor's mansion on June 30 discussing the budget.


Current Bills:

Senate Bill 850 - If passed Senate Bill 850 would have substantially reduced funding for critical programs including those involving childcare, education, affordable housing, and industry partnerships. In these difficult times investments in education and economic development are needed more than ever, to create jobs as we strive to get through this recession. The budget passed by the Senate ignores these needs and therefore ignores the needs of vulnerable Pennsylvanians.

Governor's Budget Update - As promised, Governor Rendell released a line by line list of an additional $500 million in cuts to the 2009-2010 Pennsylvania Budget. These cuts combine with previous reductions to bring his overall reductions to just over $2 billion. While the Governor preserved funding for Child Care and Industry Partnerships, cuts were made to important programs such as Adult and Family Literacy, State Food Purchase, Teen Pregnancy and Parenthood, and others.

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