Budget Impact on Human Services
As we enter into the seventh week of the state budget impasse, the majority party’s refusal to negotiate the terms of their already rejected spending plan is beginning to seriously affect our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians and the agencies and programs that serve them. While the continuation of operating without a state budget is leaving human service providers understandably concerned, the alternative of what was passed in June and subsequently vetoed is unconscionable.
Over the last four years, human service agencies in Pennsylvania have struggled as a result of drastic funding cuts enacted by the prior Administration and majority in the Legislature. Governor Wolf’s proposed budget took into account the challenges that service providers face. The governor’s budget plan restores funding for county human service agencies, increases funding for programs that help aging Pennsylvanians while also increasing choices for their care and support, and provides additional funding for programs that help individuals with disabilities.
The proposal would commit $27.9 million to county-run human services as the first step to fully restoring all of the cuts enacted over three years. Governor Wolf’s budget also provides $2.5 million to the Department of Human Services to fight the growing heroin and opioid epidemic, invests an additional $500,000 to promote employment for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and includes $1 million to reduce homelessness among Veterans.
The budget passed without negotiation by the Republican legislature and subsequently vetoed by the Governor is detrimental to human services and continues the damaging cuts they enacted over the past four years.
If that budget had been enacted, it would have done the following:
- Shift $172 million worth of payments to counties for services for abused and neglected children into the next fiscal year, which creates further budgeting issues for counties and exacerbates the structural deficit.
- Underfund health care services to Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens delivered through managed care organizations – these payments are mandatory, meaning that we will have to pay them if they are budgeted or not, requiring a supplemental appropriation this year or additional funding in the following budget.
- Maintain $27.9 million in cuts to county programs from the previous administration, reducing services and increasing pressure on local taxpayers.
Community-Based Services for Individuals Living with Mental Illness, Intellectual Disabilities, and Autism
- The Republican budget only provides funding to move 130 individuals with intellectual disabilities off of the waiting list – only one-third of the 400 individuals provided for in the Governor’s budget.
- As of April 30, 2015, there were approximately 10,234 individuals with emergency and critical needs on the intellectual disabilities waiting list and as of June 3, 2015, there were approximately 1,675 individuals on the autism interest list.
Rebalancing the Long-Term Living System
- Cuts $1.695 million in home and community-based services for 144 individuals in the LIFE program and eliminates $2.38 million necessary to provide access to home and community-based services which will negatively impact 360 additional older Pennsylvanians.
- Without these budget increases, the Department of Human Services may be forced to implement waiting lists for home and community-based services for individuals with physical disabilities and older Pennsylvanians.
- Individuals who are unable to endure the timeframe of a waiting list may be forced to enter a nursing facility, rather than receive services in their home or community. For every month a resident receives care in the community as opposed to a nursing facility, the state is able to save $2,457, offsetting more than $162.2 million in future nursing home costs.
Locks in Cuts to County Human Services
- Significant cuts were made to county human services programs in FY 2012-13. The reductions impacted the following appropriations:
- Mental Health Community Based Funded Services
- Behavioral Health Services Initiative
- Intellectual Disabilities Community Based Funded Services
- Child Welfare Special Grants
- Drug and Alcohol Act 152 Funds
- Homeless Assistance Program
- Human Services Development Fund
The Republican-passed budget maintains $27.9 million in cuts to county programs, reducing services and increasing pressure on local taxpayers.
Employing Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities
- The Republican budget proposal eliminates $500,000 to provide additional supports to promote competitive employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, in collaboration with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation in the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. Without the proposed funding, many individuals with an intellectual disability may not have access to competitive and integrative employment, despite their ability to work.
- Eliminates $1 million in new funding to provide housing to homeless Veterans.
While the rhetoric remains and the arguments continue over who is to blame for delayed budget implementation, one only has to look at the facts described above to see exactly how this affects our citizens, primarily our most vulnerable populations, to know that this conversation should not only be about the bottom line, but about the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.
Fontana Fest – This Saturday!
The 11th annual FontanaFest is taking place this Saturday from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and will once again be held at Highmark Stadium, home of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds!
The annual community event is perfect for families and children, promoting healthy and active lifestyles by providing many fun activities and crafts. Attendees also are provided with the opportunity to engage with several organizations from around the region and receive important information on available services and programs, nutrition, health care, jobs and jobs training.
The following organizations are participating in this year’s FontanaFest: Allegheny County Sheriff; Carnegie Science Center; Carnegie Library; Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh; Homeless Children’s Education Fund; Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater; WQED-TV; Junior Achievement of Western PA; The Home Depot; Calgon Carbon; Holy Family Institute; Builders Guild of Western PA; Mt. Washington CDC; YMCA; ALCOSAN; Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the Penn State Center Pittsburgh.
Lunch and beverages will be provided beginning at noon, and once again, IT’S ALL FREE! Station Square will be providing free parking in the Stadium’s West Lot for attendees from 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
FontanaFest is a 501(c)(3) and would not be possible without the tremendous support of our sponsors. I want to thank the following organizations for their contributions to the 11th Annual FontanaFest:
The event is rain or shine but I’m confident we’ll have another beautiful day for this year’s FontanaFest. I hope to see everyone there!
Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Senior Clinic
I will be hosting my annual Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Senior Clinic on Friday, September 25th from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Quinn Hall at the Church of the Resurrection in Brookline. American HealthCare Group will be providing free vaccinations to any senior with the Medicare Part B health insurance card. Make sure to bring your card with you.
I am also pleased that several organizations from around the region will be present to provide seniors with important information on available services and resources including AARP, the Office of the Consumer Advocate and the PA APPRISE Health Insurance Counseling Program, to name a few. I will continue to update you with additional information on this year’s Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Senior Clinic later this summer.
School Bus Safety
Over the next two weeks many children will be starting the new school year and yellow buses transporting students from home and school will be back on the roads. I encourage parents and students to visit www.justdrivepa.org to view tips offered by PennDOT for kids to stay safe while riding the bus. I would also like to remind motorists of the state’s School Bus Stopping Law and that anyone convicted of violating the School Bus Stopping Law can face penalties including a $250 fine, five points on your driving record, and a 60-day license suspension. Below are important items to remember when driving. If you are driving in areas with a high concentration of students waiting for the bus, please slow down and be careful.
- Motorists must stop at least 10 feet away from school buses that have their red lights flashing and stop arm extended
- Motorists must stop when they are behind a school bus, meeting the bus, or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped
- Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safely
- If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails, or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping
- Do not proceed until all the children have reached a place of safety
If anyone is planning on being in or near Harrisburg in the near future and are interested in taking a tour of the state capitol, it’s not too early to make plans. Free guided tours are offered regular weekdays, every half hour from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. On weekends and most holidays, tours are offered at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. The Capitol is closed for tours New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
For more information or to schedule a tour, please call 1-800-868-7672. Advanced reservations are suggested and required for groups of 10 or more. For everyone’s safety, group size is limited to 80 people. More information on the State Capitol can be obtained by clicking here.
Did You Know…
Did you know that then President Theodore Roosevelt attended the dedication ceremony of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building on October 4, 1906? He commented that day that “this is the handsomest building I ever saw.”
Call Before You Dig
Last week, on August 11th, was National 811 Day, an annual effort to promote and remind residents, contractors, and utilities of the importance of dialing 8-1-1 before digging to help ensure the safety of excavation projects.
The Pennsylvania One Call System alerts utilities within an intended digging area and prompts them to mark where the utilities are located on the property. Prior to digging, homeowners and/or contractors should call 8-1-1 so the appropriate utility companies can be notified of the intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with colored flags, spray paint or both.
Hits on underground utility lines pose a danger to workers and residents, and also cause service interruptions, environmental pollution and costly repairs to damaged lines. Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 8-1-1. For more information on the PA One Call System please visit www.pa1call.org.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 50.1 million students will attend public elementary and secondary schools this fall. Approximately 35.2 million students will be in prekindergarten through eighth grade and about 14.9 million will be in grades nine through 12.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Tuesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Strip District (Mobile Office)
Pittsburgh Public Market
2401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Thursdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Northside (Mobile Office)
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm