County leaders welcome more flexibility, less red tape in Pa. block grant changes

    Pennsylvania’s county commissioners say they support the Corbett administration’s plan to dole out money for human services differently. It’s a plan their Philadelphia colleagues criticize.

    Currently, money for human services flowing from Harrisburg to municipalities and counties is neatly separated into different funding streams — mental health, addiction, homelessness and so on. County commissioners say under the “block grant proposal,” they will get one lump sum to allocate resources as they see fit.

    “At the local level, we have our handle on the pulse of what the needs are for our clients, and it gives us so much flexibility to meet those needs,” says Jo Ellen Litz, head of the Pennsylvania Association of County Commissioners.

    Litz says many clients have several issues that relate to different funding streams. Under the current system, she says, it is hard to serve them without breaking the rules.

    County commissioners say the increased spending flexibility makes the proposed 20 percent budget cuts for human services more palatable since red tape will be eliminated, saving time and resources.

    Philadelphia officials say the more flexibility in terms of spending will not offset a devastating impact on services because of budget cuts.

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