OP-ED: York County business, nonprofit leaders say budget impasse takeing toll
The York County Economic Alliance, the United Way of York County and the York County Community Foundation are together issuing an appeal to Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly to take steps to resolve the current state budget impasse and mitigate the impacts being felt across the commonwealth. Recent surveys by groups like the United Way of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association have presented evidence that the nearly 3-month-old budget impasse is beginning to have financial and service delivery implications throughout the state.
The United Way of Pennsylvania partnered with several other organizations to survey the health and human services community in Pennsylvania with 313 respondents. They found that 50 percent of respondents were experiencing cash-flow challenges in August with another 25 percent expecting similar problems in September if the impasse continues. Many agencies exhausted their contingency funds in August and more will follow in September.
Some 60 percent of respondents planned on accessing lines of credit in August to continue their services. Those respondents accessing lines of credit (110 total) projected they will spend more than $1.4 million on interest costs through just the end of October. Financing costs cannot be reimbursed by the state and these are dollars that could otherwise be invested in services.
These organizations have proposed stopgap measures to mitigate suffering while a final budget is being negotiated. Recommended measures include:
1. authorizing continuing appropriations at last year's levels until a new budget is enacted;
2. assuring that all federal pass-through funds continue to flow; or
3. expanding the list of essential services that continue to receive some funding during the impasse.
More findings from the survey can be found on the United Way of Pennsylvania website (www.uwp.org).
Locally, the United Way of York County and the York County Community Foundation's partner agencies are curtailing services, delaying vendor payments and/or accessing lines of credit and contingency funds in order to keep their doors open. Some are concerned that they will not be able to make payroll in the coming weeks unless the state releases funds held up due to the impasse.
Services being curtailed include:
1. life-sustaining services for basic needs such as emergency food, rental assistance and safety for victims of domestic violence;
2. essential services covering child welfare, state-funded drug and alcohol treatment, payments for foster parents and state-funded services for individuals with intellectual disabilities;
3. services that provide people with access to higher levels of care, such as respite services for caregivers and assistance for individuals in recovery with mental health services, employment services and services that nurture strong parenting skills.
At the state level, the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association surveyed the state's 22 local workforce development boards (WDB's) in August to gauge the impact of a prolonged impasse on essential services to the commonwealth's businesses and job seekers. While the majority of funds supporting workforce development investments across the state are federally funded, the WDB's rely on spending authority, provided through the state budget process, for accessing federally appropriated funds to invest in workforce
development programs, including the operations of over 60 PA CareerLink one-stop centers open to the public.
To ensure that critical services are provided to those in need, the WDB's reported they are employing stop-gap measures that include borrowing money, furloughing staff, suspending all but essential services, and becoming delinquent (if necessary) on rent and service contracts. According to the WDB's, one in 20 Pennsylvania citizens seek assistance from PA CareerLink job centers and more than 20,000 employers rely on the workforce system to fill vacancies and provide on-the-job training.
Locally, SCPa Works (the South Central PA workforce Development Board) provides on-the-job training, pre-employment screening, job matching and placement, apprenticeship training and industry partnership driven training to support the growth of our regional business community and covering a regional labor force of over 750,000 individuals. The uninterrupted provision of these services, along with a host of job-seeker services to veterans, dislocated workers and the long-term unemployed are in serious jeopardy should a budget impasse continue. Disruption of services to our business and job-seeker communities would critically impact the momentum our regional economy has made during our economic recovery.
These examples represent but a fraction of the pain being inflicted by the budget stalemate. The York County Economic Alliance, the United Way of York County and the York County Community Foundation are calling upon our leaders in Harrisburg to set aside any personal, philosophical or ideological differences creating impediments and work toward a budget compromise that is worthy of this great commonwealth. Divided government is healthy for a democracy; however, the true test of leadership comes when we transcend our own desires and ideology for the greater good.
— Darrell W. Auterson is president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance; Robert J. Woods is executive director of the United Way of York County; and Jane M. Conover
is president of the York County Community Foundatio.n