Wednesday, October 7, 2009

PathWays PA Special Budget Alert - October 7, 2009 - Day 99 of the Budget Impasse

Tomorrow marks 100 days that Pennsylvania has been without a budget. We are now in the second quarter of the state’s fiscal year. For many counties, non-profits, schools, hospitals, and many other organizations that provide critical programs and services, it has also been an entire quarter since they have received state funding.

While the Senate passed a budget bill yesterday, until a budget is passed by both House and Senate and signed by Governor Rendell, counties, non-profits, schools, hospitals, and many other organizations will continue to struggle.

As we wait for a signed budget, preschools and other pre-kindergarten programs continue to shut their doors, along with child care centers and many other state programs. If you work for one of these organizations, or if the services you rely on have been cut, please tell your story! Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or tell your story to PathWays PA. We will share these stories on our blog and in our e-newsletters.

While there is much hope that we are reaching the end of the budget impasse, there are no guarantees. Please continue to contact legislators and remind them of the programs that are important to Pennsylvania’s families, like the Industry Partnerships, Child Care Works, and Adult Education, and the need for funds to be distributed to service providers as quickly as possible after a budget is passed.


United Way Survey: How the Budget is Impacting the Nonprofit Community

The United Way seeks your help in better defining the crisis facing nonprofit health and human service organizations in the Commonwealth because of the budget impasse. If your agency has experienced delays in receiving payments under state or local contracts, please complete this survey. Thursday marks the 100th day of the budget impasse and it is critical that legislators understand how this is truly impacting our communities.

The information you provide will be kept strictly confidential and will not be shared outside of the 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 the Commonwealth.


Budget Update

Yesterday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 1085, a $27.84 billion budget plan, with a vote of 43 to 6. An accompanying bill that provides the revenue part of the plan also passed the Senate, with a vote of 35 to 14.

Senators say that this latest plan keeps spending and major taxes down, while it makes needed investments in public education.

A line by line comparison of the budget bill shows that:
  • Adult and Family Literacy will receive funding of $17,687,000 (more than in SB 850, but less than in the Governor’s original budget)
  • Children’s Health Insurance will receive $97,112,000 in funding (more than in SB 850 or the Governor’s budget)
  • New Choices, New Options will receive $2,000,000 in funding (after being zeroed out in SB 850)
  • Industry Partnerships will receive $2,000,000 in funding (after being zeroed out in SB 850, but had been expected to receive over 3 million under the three-caucus budget)
  • Child Care Assistance will receive $198,147,000 in funding (the same as under SB 850, and less than the Governor’s original budget)
This latest revenue bill also:
  • raises the cigarette taxes,
  • delays the phase-out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax,
  • legalizes table games at slot-machine casinos,
  • expands gas drilling on state-owned land,
  • levies a gross receipts tax on managed care organizations (which would trigger the release of hundred of millions of dollars in federal assistance),
  • makes major withdrawals from the Rainy Day Fund, and
  • withdraw funding from the surplus of the MCARE fund.
After leaving the Senate, the bills then moved onto the House, where members voted 179 to 22 to disband the Conference Committee and instead move a bill through the House Rules Committee. How long this will take is unknown, however, what is known is that one area of concern has to do with moving $12 million in walking around money (WAMs) that appears in the latest Senate bill into broad based programs.

Please continue to see our PathWays PA Policy Blog for updates on the budget and other important policy issues.


Local Impact of Working Without a State Budget

While the Senate has passed a bill and the House is currently working on one, many departments, organizations, and agencies are still without any funding. Below are some local examples of how the impasse continues to affect different parts of the state.
  • Last week, Calcutta House was unable to pick up its monthly prescription of more than 11,000 dosages of HIV/AIDS medications, which they dispense to clients, because they owed the pharmacy $217 in back payments. Calcutta House was unable to make the payments to the pharmacy and over 100 other vendors because the state budget impasse has tied up nearly all of it federal, state, and city funding. The pharmacy has decided to work with Calcutta House even during the budget impasse.
  • Without state funding, the owner of Radcliffe Learning Center for preschool children in Bucks County has gone through $90,000 of her personal savings since the beginning of the budget impasse. Without a budget, the Center is not receiving the income they are owed through child-care subsidies. The Center is running out of money and unless a budget is passed quickly they will have to start turning children away, leaving parents either unable to work or having to quickly locate alternative care for their children.
  • York County will have to either borrow more money or shut down services if the budget impasse continues much longer. In September, the County Commissioner had to borrow $5.5 million to cover the county’s budgetary shortfall. This borrowing did not take into consideration the millions of dollars the county has spent to make up for the gap left without state funding.
  • Over 70 percent of Centre County’s $80 million budget comes from state money, because counties are agents of the state in delivering social services. Centre, along with other counties, will have to decide whether to use a $15 million line of credit while they continue to await state funding.
  • Industry Partnerships cannot offer classes to provide training and upward mobility.

Day 100 Without A Budget

On Thursday, October 8th, people are coming together to mark the 100th day without a state budget and urge our legislators to pass a responsible budget quickly.

Philadelphia Rally – Noon, Municipal Services Building (JFK Blvd between 15th and Broad Street) . Check here for more details.

Be part of this action by contributing to 100 Ways, 100 Days: How the Budget Impasse Has Hurt Pennsylvanians. Email sheilas@pccy.org two sentences telling us how you have been affected: have you:
  • Gone without pay?
  • Furloughed workers?
  • Downsized staff?
  • Delayed purchasing materials?
  • Been unable to work due to lack of child care?
  • Taken out a loan to cover expenses?
  • Received less service?
  • Been turned away from an agency or service provider?
A list will be compiled and presented as part of Thursday’s event.

Stay tuned for additional information on this event and the state budget. To learn about possible other events in other parts of the state please visit the websites of the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

And please do not forget to keep calling! Click here to locate your legislator and contact information.


Action Alerts

While the Senate has passed a bill and the House is currently working on one, the budget will not be final until it is passed by both chambers and signed by the Governor. Until that time, legislators continue to work on the amount of funding programs and services will receive. Please continue to contact legislators and remind them of the programs that are important to Pennsylvania’s families and ask them to fast-track funding to service providers so they can afford to keep helping those in need.

Some of these programs include:


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.
  • Please see two recent posts on the PathWays PA Policy Blog - Recent Op Ed: Killing Industry Partnership workforce training would be bad for Pa. and Another Op-Ed in Support of Industry Partnerships.

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. Please contact your representatives today to let them know the importance of this program!

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