Budget woes for social service providers in Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvania’s budget deadline is fast approaching. Social Service Providers say they are bracing for the worst while lobbying lawmakers to avoid more cuts.

    Pennsylvania’s budget deadline is fast approaching. Social Service Providers say they are bracing for the worst while lobbying lawmakers to avoid more cuts.

    As discussions on spending in Harrisburg continue, it is not clear how much money will be cut from social services. Agencies that serve disabled people, the homeless and others already had to close programs and lay off staff over the past year, while facing increased need because of the recession.

    Debbie Plotnick of the Mental Health Association of South-Eastern Pennsylvania says agencies like hers are still hurting from last year’s cuts, and the prolonged budget stalemate, when payments from Harrisburg for services were delayed for months:

    Plotnick: “We’re all holding on, and from last year we’re really holding by the skin of our teeth, and frankly, there is not a lot of skin left!“

    Gabrielle Sedor of the Pennsylvania Service Network for Autism and Intellectual Disabilities says proposed reductions in the budget would mean fewer community services for people who need long-term and steady care:

    Sedor: “You won’t see people kicked out on the street, but what you could see is people not opening up new services and this is incredibly concerning when you are talking about a state that has almost 20,000 people on a waiting list for services.”

    Sedor says a reduction of state funding would also mean a loss of matching federal funds. The kinds of services that could be affected by budget cuts are group homes, job programs and recreational opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.

    Providers are urging Pennsylvania lawmakers to tax cigars and smokeless tobacco products and end some business tax exemptions to increase revenue.

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