Budget cuts affect social service providers

    Social Service providers in Philadelphia are finding out how much their budgets were cut by the state. The delay was caused by the budget stalemate that lasted until mid-October.

    Social Service providers in Philadelphia are finding out how much their budgets were cut by the state. The delay was caused by the budget stalemate that lasted until mid-October.

    Listen:

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    Pennsylvania budget cuts mean fewer dollars for social services, though many providers say the cuts are not as bad as expected. Debbie Plotnick of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania says in addition to facing a tighter budget, her agency is still hurting from the budget impasse – when state payments for services were held up:

    Plotnick: We have to make interest payments on the loans that we’re taking out for the many months when we had no cash flow, and of course we had danger to our reputation as a good payer, so our vendors of course had to wait.

    Dr. Arthur Evans heads Philadelphia’s Department for Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation Services. He says the budget cuts are not as big as initially feared, but agencies were de-stabilized during the budget stalemate when they were not receiving pay from Harrisburg:

    Evans:
    Some of them had to lay off staff, many of them had to draw down on their credit lines, I think the other issue is that last year we had a cut, this year we have a cut, it means that those providers will not get a cost of living increase.

    Evans says not getting a cost of living increase represents another challenge for providers as many of them face increased costs, especially for staff health care. He says his office has to examine many of its programs to see which ones are essential, and where cuts can be made. He says service providers also have to brace for a smaller Medicaid budget, which goes into effect in January.

    The Philadelphia Alliance which represents service providers – is hoping to learn from this year’s budget delay. It’s surveying its members to see how the funding freeze hurt programs and how to be better prepared in case there’s another budget impasse next year.

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