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Providers may face HSDF cut


Author: Steve Ferris
Source: Herald-Standard
Date: May 7, 2005

Human service providers in Fayette County were called together Friday and asked to lobby state legislators to pick up $140,000 in operational funding that the federal government has cut from the 2006 budget.

The county's Human Service Development Fund allocation of about $769,000 has been cut 20 percent in the proposed federal budget.

Michelle Grant Shumar, director of the county's Human and Community Services and Fayette Area Coordinated Transportation, said that money fills funding "gaps" in other programs and is distributed to a number of agencies for various services.

The HSDF receives the allocation and distributes it to the other agencies.

Representatives from Fayette County Community Action, Fayette County Drug and Alcohol Commission, the county Mental Health/Mental Retardation agency, the county housing authority, Albert Gallatin Human Service Agency and City Mission attended the meeting.

"We've got a tough situation that we're going through again," Shumar said, referring to a proposed federal funding cut two years ago.

She said the federal budget includes across-the-board spending cuts, and states are now being asked to fill the voids.

State Reps. H. William DeWeese (D-Waynesburg) and Peter J. Daley (D-California) have agreed to meet with human service agency representatives on Monday in Harrisburg.

"We're asking for no cuts and maybe a cost-of-living adjustment," Shumar said.

As of Friday, only Erica Bertovich of the drug and alcohol commission said she would make the lobbying trip, and Dexter Smart of City Mission said he would try to send one of his staff members.

Smart said the HSDF cut would take about $20,000, or half, of City Mission's case-management budget.

The caseworkers help 500 homeless people a year become self-sufficient.

"Without it, we are just warehousing people," Smart said.

Programs at the shelter have reduced the number people who repeatedly come back by about 6 percent, he commented.

"We have made a lot of strides in Fayette County, but there is still a lot to do," Smart said, noting that the county has the second- or third-highest poverty level in the state.

Tammy Knouse of Community Action said the organization uses HSDF money to run a program that takes people with other means of transportation to dialysis, the welfare office, drug and alcohol counseling and similar appointments.

She said the program served 25,000 people last year. Another drug and alcohol commission representative said HSDF money paid for student drug and alcohol programs.

She said 23,000 county students benefited from the program last year.

Jamie McCahill of the housing authority said the authority uses the money for programs designed to help tenants 60 years old and older remain independent.

"Without support of services, these people would end up back in institutions," she said.