Yes, Years of Budget Cuts Have Taken a Toll on Pennsylvanians

Over the past week, much has been said and written about Governor Corbett’s proposed state budget cuts. Naturally, the debate has focused on the future, but we should also take stock of what has happened over the past couple years.

The United Way of Pennsylvania is helping with that. In a new survey of more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations, it found that the deep recession created a greater need for services for out-of-work Pennsylvanians and their families, while diminishing the resources that service providers have to help them.

State budget cuts over the past two years — and the specter of more this year — have nonprofits providers concerned about their ability to serve abused children, victims of domestic violence, senior citizens and people with disabilities.

According to the survey, four out of five nonprofits report that the recession increased demand for services, while more than two-thirds say budget cuts have left them with fewer resources to help Pennsylvanians. Private donations, meanwhile, have remained flat or declined since 2008 for most nonprofits.

What does this mean for vulnerable Pennsylvanians and their families? Here are just a few examples of what service providers are saying:

  • We cannot absorb any more budget cuts without cutting services through our core programs: emergency shelter and transitional housing for domestic violence victims, legal services, and educational programs.
  • We serve victims of domestic violence, many of whom are in need of emergency assistance (legal or shelter) due to severe violence, the impact on individual lives is severe. Last week, a woman entered our shelter who had been struck with a machete. A cut means that we turn people away — people with an urgent and severe need for safety and protection.
  • It may be the difference between being able to work and have affordable child care options and not working.
  • A 10% cut would cause a loss of 224,000 service hours every two weeks or 5,824,000 hours a year of personal care services to the elderly or disabled populations we serve.
  • [A cut] would mean that we would need to sell one of our shelter houses, and thereby double the number of people we would turn away.

At a press conference last week, United Way of Pennsylvania President Tony Ross and local United Way officials said one way to help would be for the Legislature to restore a $23.5 million cut to the Human Services Development Fund. That fund, which provides flexible funding to counties for services like emergency shelters, adult day care, child-abuse prevention, counseling and medical transportation, was wiped out in Governor Corbett’s budget proposal.

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