Tuesday, August 25, 2009

DR: While Pennsylvania Burns

If nothing else, the state's budget impasse shows us how close to the edge many of our fellow citizens live, especially those who are old, young, alone, have disabilities or are victims of violence. Both government and private agencies are on the brink of collapse.

One institution that is far from the brink of collapse is the General Assembly. Its $200+ million surplus can keep it going until March and longer if they cut some fat from the nation's most bloated legislature. Is it any wonder that they fiddle while Pennsylvania burns?

Some programs already are closing with serious and sometimes life-and-death repercussions. Here are quotes from a story in Sunday's Scranton Times-Tribune . Newspapers everywhere report similar problems.

Domestic Violence: "The Women's Resource Center held an emergency finance committee meeting on Wednesday and found that even with an extended line of credit and an advance on its United Way funding for the year, it will have to begin cutting its services - including a 24-hour domestic abuse hot line and a sexual assault response program that works with hospitals and the police - by eight hours a day, beginning Nov. 1. At a time when the agency has seen the average stay in its domestic abuse shelters increase from 33 days to 52 days since last year, the shelter program would be devastated' if reimbursements don't arrive in October..."

When emergency shelters close, it becomes easier for predators to find the women and children they abuse, often with deadly consequences. Click here for a report from the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence about this summer's 47 killings.

Welfare to Work: "The Employment Opportunity and Training Center will not be starting fall programs that would normally begin in September, and it has created a waiting list for its parenting programs because it cannot afford to enroll new students. It is reducing the number of days it offers classes at the Lackawanna County Prison and is temporarily suspending a Tuesday job search group that helps unemployed people find work. Starting this week, the center will be closed every Friday. Within the four remaining work days, each of the 45 staff members will take an additional 7.5 hours without pay. The normal 75-hour, two-week pay period will now be reduced to 52.5 hours."

Children: "In the past month, nearly $900,000 in child care subsidies through the state Child Care Works program has not been paid to 247 day care providers, putting 1,900 children at risk of losing services. The waiting list to receive subsidized child care has increased from three months to at least six.... In Lackawanna, Pike, Wayne and Susquehanna counties, seven Head Start classrooms have closed, eliminating services for 238 children and jobs for 28 staff members.... a private bus contractor for Head Start is losing six runs a day because of the classroom closures. Supermarkets where Head Starts normally spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on groceries for their lunch programs will now see a fraction of those sales."

When child care programs close, parents often can't work, including those who are trying to escape welfare. The same applies when children can't attend pre-school programs or school.

Seniors: "One home service provider... was forced to stop providing personal assistance - such as bathing and grooming - to about 50 seniors last week due to a lack of state funding. About 20 of those seniors, who could not be picked up by another provider, have stopped receiving service and are now on a waiting list for care."

Drug & Alcohol Treatment: "Jeffrey Zerechak, the director of the county Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, said that without state funding, the county can no longer fund inpatient drug and alcohol treatment for the working poor. In the last three weeks, 14 people the commission has found need inpatient service have instead been put on a waiting list. 'This definitely has an impact on society, when people are not getting what they need to be healthy,' Mr. Zerechak said. You have a chronic, progressive illness that is not being offered the treatment it needs, and people are going to continue to get sicker until it manifests itself in other ways.'"

False Economy

As human service programs close, we can expect increased demand for emergency room treatment (the most expensive health care) for conditions that state funding normally prevents. We can expect increased demand for jails (the most expensive housing) resulting from desperation that state funding normally keeps at bay.

Local governments and schools that must borrow money to keep going thereby force local taxpayers to pay interest on those loans, an entirely unnecessary cost if a state budget were in place.

Questions:
  • When will the cost of trying to save money exceed the amount saved?
  • Who will accept responsibility instead of casting blame?

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Thank you!

Tim Potts
Co-Founder, Democracy Rising PA

Thanks, Tim! Great work!

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