Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Special Budget Alert - August 26, 2009

It is now week eight 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 News Featuring PathWays PA

PathWays PA and other agencies have been in the news in the past weeks regarding the impact of the budget crisis on their work. We are trying to track budget stories of the day on our blog, but you can find the stories about PathWays PA below:


Budget Update

Democratic House and Senate negotiators are reporting that they have cut the budget impasse gap at least in half. What formally was a $1 billion difference in funding levels may be as close as $300 million or as far as $500 million. However, Republicans state they have not yet seen the official figures.

Today, a press conference is being held in Harrisburg on behalf of schools suffering during the budget crisis. A rally is also taking place in Delaware County which will bring together nonprofits from southeast Pennsylvania to discuss the impact of the budget on their programs.


Philadelphia Budget Update


The Senate Finance Committee approved a bill that would allow Philadelphia to increase the sales tax and delay payments to city's pension fund. According to the Mayor, these measures are necessary to keep the city from having to implement severe cuts that include 3,000 layoffs, the closing of libraries and recreation centers, and limiting trash collection to twice a month. The bill coming out of the Senate Committee was amended from the original House bill and if approved by the full Senate will have to go back to the House.

Action Alerts

Budget Rallies Throughout 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.


Local Impact 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.

  • The South Central Community Action Program, which has served the residents of Adams and Franklin counties for 44 years, must close the door on some of its programs for the first time ever. The agency is waiting on $1.7 million in state payments and has temporarily suspended 75 percent of its services and laid off 68 of its 108 staffers. Programs suspended include its housing, emergency services, and career programs. With community support the agency is able to continue operating its food pantries, shelters and a handful of other services on very limited hours.
  • Community Women's Education Project in Philadelphia reduced their staff to keep its literacy programs and assistance for children, the unemployed, and parents whose children are in foster care open. However, the Project cannot enroll the 125 adults who usually partake in its literacy classes until it receives the $60,000 it is expecting from the state. Residents in the area depend on the agency to get the skills they need to apply for jobs.
  • Survivors Inc. of Gettysburg, a nonprofit that provides shelter to those fleeing from domestic violence, had to get funding from a local foundation for emergency operations cash to prevent what could have been a closure of its 22-bed emergency shelter at the end of August. Other shelters have been forced to impose pay cuts on their staff or close satellite shelters.
  • In Perry County, the main agency for state homeless assistance dollars, Perry Human Services, has not been able to make any grant payments this summer to landlords for programs aimed at helping needy families pay back rent to avoid eviction, or those coming out of shelters with first month's rent and security deposits.

School is Almost In, But the Funding is Still Out

School districts have already missed one state subsidy payment, and, unless a budget is passed today, they will miss the second payment this week, totaling $1.3 billion. Some school districts are able to weather this crisis, however, many receive up to 80 percent of their funding from the state, which means they must rely on cuts and loans. These schools cannot invest in new teachers or new equipment for their students. Even with loans and frugal spending many school districts will not be able to stay afloat for much longer. They are urging state legislators to pass a responsible budget quickly.


United Way Survey

The United Way released the results of a survey of 500 non-profit organizations that shows how they are being affected by the budget crisis. The organizations surveyed, most of which contract with state and county governments to provide social services, rely on $150 million in state and local funding to provide services, pay their employees, and pay their bills.

Of the organizations surveyed:

  • Almost 70 percent will have to cut or eliminate services if they are not paid by September 30th;
  • 1 in 4 have already or are planning to layoff employees;
  • 35 percent are delaying bill payments;
  • 33 percent have missed a utility payment
  • 34 percent have missed a rent payment;
  • 50 percent have delayed or postponed repairs, and;
  • 63 percent have reduced the amount of supplies.

Many of the surveyed non-profit organizations have not been paid since June and will not be paid until after a state budget is passed. Many federal grants to these organizations also flow through the state, preventing payment of the federal resources until the final budget is passed.

The survey results show that many non-profit organizations, which provide essential services all over the state, are on the brink of collapse and may have to close their doors if a responsible state budget is not passed soon.

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