Thursday, August 13, 2009

PathWays PA Special Budget Alert - August 12, 2009

While state workers have begun to receive paychecks and some essential services will receive funds, many institutions and organizations that rely on state funding continue to go without until the remainder of the budget is passed. These include schools, hospitals, and non-profit organizations making tough decisions that could lead to laying-off workers, cutting services, or closing their doors because of funding tied up until the budget is passed.

A budget is needed quickly, but it must also be a budget that supports Pennsylvanians. As budget proposals continue to be negotiated, important programs are still at risk of being cut. It is crucial for legislators to hear from their constituents about what programs are important.

If you are upset about the budget proposals, which include cuts ranging from education to hospitals to the elimination of the Industry Partnership program, please tell your legislators how you would finish this sentence: “If the choice is between reducing/eliminating spending on hospitals, burn units, Industry Partnerships, and childcare, or increasing revenues, I would support…”

During this recession, some budget cuts are inevitable. But too many cuts will lead to long-term impacts on our families, our health, and our economy at a time when we can’t afford to do without.

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


Budget Update

It is now over 40 days past the due date for the Commonwealth's budget. Last week, Governor Rendell signed a "bridge" budget that allowed state workers to begin receiving paychecks and some essential services to receive funds. However, many institutions and organizations that rely on state funding continue to go without until the remainder of the budget is passed.

Some programs that will begin to receive funding are County Assistance Offices, child support enforcement, and youth development institutions, yet there will no funding for child care, child welfare, rape crisis, domestic violence, homeless services, autism, and Nurse Family Partnership, to name a few, until the final budget – if those services are included in the final budget.

Press conferences have continued in Harrisburg throughout this week, but the Conference Committee has yet to meet. Governor Rendell has asked Conference Committee members to go "line by line" through the budget, though Committee members have not yet agreed to this approach.


Action Alert - Help Define the Current Crisis Facing Southeastern Nonprofit Health and Human Service Organizations

Nonprofit health and human service organizations are facing an unprecedented crisis due to the delays in finalizing state and local government budgets this year. This is happening at a time when other sources of relief, such as foundations and private donors, are also struggling, which means that the social safety net that nonprofits have created for our region's most vulnerable citizens is becoming seriously frayed.

Through a brief informal survey, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania seeks your help in better defining the crisis facing nonprofit health and human service organizations in the region. The information you provide here will be kept strictly confidential and will not be shared outside of United Way. Information from all agencies that respond will be aggregated, so that the United Way can better inform policymakers and the public about the serious challenge facing the network of community-based services in our region.

The survey is available here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=A9k_2blbuz8GjZHZZ3qn6BBA_3d_3d

While the survey requests identifying information on your agency, providing that information is optional. The survey should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete.

If you have any question please contact David Fair at dfair@uwsepa.org.



The Local Effect of Working Without a State Budget

While the “stop-gap” budget has allowed state workers and some services to be paid, many other departments, organizations, and agencies are still without any funding. Below are some local examples of how the delay and some of the budget proposals truly impact different parts of the state.

  • In Allegheny County, Lifespan Inc., which has a contract with the county’s Area Agency on Aging, notified their employees that they will need to lay off caseworkers if a budget is not passed by September.
  • The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) will not be able to award education grants to need-based applicants until the budget is complete. PHEAA makes an average award of $2,738 and a maximum award of $4,120 to about 172,000 state residents each year. Without a state budget, PHEAA cannot finalize the reward amount or disburse money to campuses. Without this money, schools are going to have to make a decision on how to handle students who rely on that assistance. Some schools believe they can front the money until a budget is passed, however, having to do so would add to the financial problems many schools are already facing.
  • The Child Advocates of Blair County, which runs the Head Start programs in the county, sent a letter to parents explaining potential program cuts and staff reductions that depend on the budget. If budget proposals that cut Head Start by 50% are passed, at least two of the Head Start centers in Blair County will have to close, leaving 24 families scrambling to find an alternative. For the centers that will remain open, staff will be cut and hours of operation will have to be reduced.
  • The Allegheny County Department of Human Services will not be able to pay the 400 agencies that contract with the county to provide services from housing the homeless, to child protection, to mental health without a state budget. The Department serves about 230,000 people in the county.
  • According to the Department of Public Welfare, which oversees subsidized child care, two child-care centers in Philadelphia have informed parents they cannot continue to care for children without payment in full. The subsidies are not being paid because of the budget impasse. Without the subsidies, many parents will be forced to either quit their jobs or find alternative care.


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. 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.
  • Read more about how the Industry Partnership program is helping in one county
  • Talking points are available from Workforce PA, as is a sample letter to send to legislators (please email wib@papartners.org with any legislators you contact as well).


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 as $15,000.



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.
  • For more information please see a new report from PCCY, “Child Care Works, A Program with a Growing Need


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. In Pennsylvania, the Senate proposal cuts adult literacy by 29% and the House is considering a 12% cut. Please contact your representatives today to let them know the importance of this program!

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