Budget Impasse in Harrisburg affects Social Service Agencies

    Representatives from over 60 Pennsylvania social service agencies were rallying in Media today, to urge legislators to pass a state budget.

    The budget impasse in Harrisburg has held up money for many social service providers, who receive a majority of their dollars through state contracts.

    Listen to the radio report:

    [audio:090826msservices.mp3]

    In a survey of over 500 of the state’s social service providers conducted by the United Way of Pennsylvania, close to 70 percent reported that they have already cut services, or will have to do so by the end of September. Many are borrowing money to stay afloat.

    Jack Dembow, CEO of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia says his organization has borrowed almost one million dollars since June to continue to provide services to children and families.

    Debbie Plotnick of the Mental Health Association of South Eastern Pennsylvania says her agency is also using its credit line to continue its work and pay employees. The organization works with people affected by mental illness – Plotnick says many of them are able to live independently and work because of the services they receive:

    Plotnick:
    Without these services people will number one lose their jobs because they can’t get to them, or they are not prepared to get to them, they could lose their homes, meaning that they may, worst case, be out on the street, and the situation just keeps tumbling downhill.

    Dr. Arthur Evans heads Philadelphia’s department of Behavioral Health, which relies heavily on state dollars. He says without a state budget, he has no way of paying the organizations providing mental health and substance abuse services for Philadelphians. He says the money issues these organizations are struggling with may cause long-term problems.

    Evans: As providers are not able to pay their employees, they start to lose staff, that de-stabilizes programs and it’s often very difficult to recover, to rehire staff and get back up to speed.

    Evans says right now all social service agencies in the city are still functioning, but his office is getting emergency requests for payment. A spokeswoman from Governor Ed Rendell’s office says it is unlikely that a budget will be passed before Labor Day.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.