County officials favor Pa. change in distributing human services funds

    County commissioners across Pennsylvania are calling for a statewide expansion of a relatively new effort to pay for human services programs.

    The human services block grant is a way for counties to receive money for seven different services in a single pot. A pilot program that began in the fall currently allows 20 counties to receive funding this way.

    Critics fought hard last year to keep the program limited. But the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania wants it made available to all counties.

    Spokeswoman Lisa Schaefer takes issue with the criticism that the block grant funding approach introduces a fight for funding between programs.

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    “Well, the fight for funding goes on across all of our human services line items, we’ve seen that across the board regardless of the block grant concept,” she said. “The point of the block grant is to better treat an individual as opposed to having that funding stuck within the various line items.”

    Counties participating in the pilot program have only just submitted their budget plans for the services being funded by the block grant.

    But the association says it expects the results of the program to confirm their hopes, not critics’ fears.

    Schaefer says the association also is tracking issues related to Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling. It wants to see federal safety standards apply to the gathering pipelines in rural areas.

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