More Pa. counties in line for bundled human services grants

    The fate of a pilot program affecting county human services programs in Pennsylvania is under more scrutiny this week.The initiative allows 20 counties to collapse the funding of several distinct human services into one big funding pot, giving administrators more control over how the money is allocated.

    Service providers and advocates say it’s a dangerous approach. In light of last year’s 10 percent funding cut, they say it puts services in a competition for funds.

    But state Rep. Matt Baker, R-Tioga, says he hasn’t heard complaints about the way the block grant program is working in the 20 participating counties.

    “Normally, if there’s something that’s just systemically wrong or dysfunctional or flawed, we hear about it,” he said Monday.

    Some Democrats say they want to wait to open up it up to more counties until they get a report, due in January, on the program’s implementation.

    It’s too early to tell if the program is working, contends state Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh.

    “The purpose of a pilot program, as I understand it, is to evaluate the success or failure of a program and go from there before expanding it further,” he said. “If we don’t have any actual data, any reports that describe the overall impact of the block grant program, I am hesitant to expand it further.”

    The Corbett administration doesn’t want to wait to expand the program to all qualified counties. And it’s unclear if legislative leaders will push for a more modest expansion.

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