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Montco can no longer pick up slack during Pa. budget impasse

 A day's worth of food for a senior receiving Meals on Wheels. Senior services, including Meals on Wheels, are no longer receiving government funds in Montgomery County, due to a prolonged state budget impasse. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

A day's worth of food for a senior receiving Meals on Wheels. Senior services, including Meals on Wheels, are no longer receiving government funds in Montgomery County, due to a prolonged state budget impasse. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

Montgomery County commissioners announced Thursday they can no longer tap the county’s savings to pick up the state’s tab for services ranging from restaurant inspections to Meals on Wheels to foster care.

More than four months into a budget standoff in Harrisburg, the wealthy suburban county is one of the last to announce big cuts.

Commissioner Val Arkoosh said the decision was “difficult.” However, “our first priority is to run the county business.”

The county spent more than $30 million of its reserve fund from July to October. Arkoosh said the county is saving money to preserve government functions through the end of 2015. In 2016, if there’s still no budget, commissioners will consider taking out a line of credit until property tax money starts rolling in in March. Or, until the state passes a budget.

In the meantime, social support groups are on their own. Schools, senior care, mental health and family services — in other words, the most vulnerable citizens — are the hardest hit.

“We hadn’t prepared for this because there’s always been impasses,” said Linda Collins, executive director of the Senior Adult Activities Center of Montgomery County. “We had not thought anything would take this long.”

SAAC provides meals twice a day, five days a week, to about 400 seniors in Montgomery County and opens it senior centers to aging residents. It’s just one of the more than 75 service providers and 450 employees affected by the cut.

Collins said she’s coming up with several contingency plans and should be fine through January, running operations on savings. If there’s still no budget, she said, they’ll take out a line of credit. Many smaller organizations don’t have that option.

“This situation is just unconscionable,” said Arkoosh.

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