Wednesday, August 19, 2009

PathWays PA Special Budget Alert - August 17, 2009

It is now week seven of the budget stalemate. 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.

While state workers have begun receiving paychecks and some essential services have received 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 that will have to make tough decisions that could lead to layoffs, service cuts, or closing down their businesses because funding is tied up until the budget is passed.

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.

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

Currently the House and Senate budget proposals have an approximately $1 billion difference in funding levels. Today, the State Senate plans to vote on whether or not to override certain provisions that were "blue-lined" (aka line-item vetoed) when Governor Rendell passed the "bridge" budget two weeks ago. The votes will cover 10 to 15 lines of the budget involving funds of up to $2.1 billion.

The Senate leaders said most of the vetoed lines they are looking to override have the same funding levels proposed by the House and Governor. However, some of the lines being discussed, such as aid to county child welfare agencies and Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency tuition grants, could be funded at lower levels than what the Governor and House have called for.

The Senate will need two-thirds of its members to vote for the override for the procedure to pass. If passed, the override then moves to the House, where two-thirds of House members will have to vote in favor for the measure to pass.

Action Alerts

Community Forum: Raise Your Voice for Kids

State legislators, county administrators, private agency leaders, and foster parents will be taking part in a community forum to support a state budget that supports Prevention, Child Protection and Juvenile Justice Services.

WHEN: Thursday, August 20th 1:00-3:00
WHERE: Methodist Services for Children and Families, 4300 Monument Road, Philadelphia, PA.

20,000 Pennsylvania kids currently live in foster care. Without state funding, foster parents receive no reimbursement for the food, clothing, and shelter they provide for these children. Families also lack services to assist with moving the children toward being reunited with their families. Meanwhile, the agencies that help protect children and families might be forced to close. Please come to this forum and raise your voice to protect funds that protect children.


Budget Rallies Through Out the State

Individuals and organizations are coming together throughout Pennsylvania to remind legislators of the need to quickly pass a responsible budget that fully funds essential programs. If you are interested in taking part or attending any of these rallies, please visit the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s website.


Help Define the Current Crisis Facing 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, the 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://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e2k5bmidfybx466f/a01lufyk6iwgj/questions

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.



The Local Effect of Working Without a State Budget

As yet another casualty of the budget stalemate, teen mothers in PathWays PA’s Supervised Independent Living (SIL) program have a new obstacle in the way of their education: they may have to put classes on hold due to the closure of local child care centers. Since child care facilities have not been receiving subsidies from the state, they have begun shutting their doors, leaving these young women and many others in Pennsylvania without safe care for their children.

SIL provides safe and secure housing, case management, education and employment support for pregnant adolescents and teen moms between the ages of 16 and 21. These young women have overcome serious obstacles, which often include abusive relationships and living in the foster care system. Despite these challenges, the young women in the program have made the commitment to transition themselves to independence through education.

Of the 32 young women at SIL, 90 percent rely on subsidies so they can afford child care while they attend classes. The majority of residents have taken out student loans to pay for the education and training to become nurse’s aides, and can only miss three days of class time before being forced to withdraw. Once they withdraw, they must retake the class, and again pay the full tuition.

The young women residing at SIL have faced and overcome many challenges on their path to self-sufficiency. It is unfortunate that as they take responsibility for their lives and their education, they face even more obstacles as a result of this budget impasse. A responsible budget that fully funds essential services, like child care, is necessary to give these young women and so many other parents the opportunity to become and remain self-sufficient.


Local Impact

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 Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter announced that the city will sharply reduce the hours of its new 311 call center, delay a police recruiting class (meaning 100 police cadets will have their hiring, at least, delayed), and cut $1.5 million from a low-income housing fund. As a result of these cuts, 30 city government positions will either go unfilled or workers will be laid off. The city is asking the state legislature to allow Philadelphia to institute a 1 percent sales tax increase and changes in the pension system to keep the city from having to significantly cut even more services.
  • The South Central Community Action Program that serves Franklin and Adams counties will be forced to close their doors on Friday if they are unable to secure no-interest loans from foundations and individuals to keep some services open. The Community Action Program provides services for pregnant women and young mothers, child care centers, food pantries, and homeless shelters
  • The State Library of Pennsylvania, a repository of government documents, had to reduce their staff and cut the hours of operation in half.
  • State budget proposals call for the elimination of, or the drastic cutting of funding for, trauma centers and burn centers, medical and health professional education, outpatient/inpatient disproportionate share, obstetrical/neonatal services, and small and rural hospitals. With hospitals throughout Pennsylvania already struggling, the cuts will lead to more lay offs and potentially put the health care of Pennsylvanians in jeopardy.
  • The Dauphin County Department of Drug and Alcohol Services sent a letter to service providers telling them the county can not pay invoices until the state passes a budget and funding is received.
  • Health centers have learned that "wraparound" payments for patients receiving Medical Assistance from the state to cover their health care costs will be delayed until a budget is passed. Statewide, more than 600,000 people rely on community health centers for their primary care needs and more than 40 percent of these individuals receive state Medical Assistance. Because of the number insured by Medical Assistance, wraparound payments amount to more than $33 million annually, or 15 percent of health center revenue.
  • The Community Action Partnership for Somerset County had to lay off 16 people in their pre-K program, while the Head Start supplemental has cut class time in five centers to a half day. Meanwhile, their seven food pantries are struggling to provide for all those in need.


While the budget is negotiated, many of the already long waiting lists are getting longer
  • More than 280,000 are on the waiting list for adultBasic, the state's low-cost health insurance program for lower-income adults. The number that has doubled in the last eight months, and seven times more people are on the waiting list than are receiving the benefits. The wait for individuals on the list will likely be more than two years long.
  • About 16,000 are on the waiting list for the state's child care subsidy designed to help low-income parents find and keep jobs.
  • More than 13,000 are on the waiting list for day, home and community services for the mentally disabled.

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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