Pennsylvania’s elected officials are still trying to negotiate a state budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1, after Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a spending plan sent to him by the General Assembly in late June.
The vetoed spending plan would have made severe cuts to county child welfare funding, reducing county funding by nearly $132 million, or 12 percent, from last year. This week, a new budget bill (HB 1460) was introduced in the House that still includes this reduced amount. While this new bill is simply a budget “vehicle” that will undergo revisions as budget talks continue, it’s important for the governor and lawmakers to understand why this level of cut isn’t appropriate.
Pennsylvania enacted 23 new child protection laws in the past two years and one more was recently signed into law. These bills were much-needed improvements in our efforts to protect children from abuse and neglect, but they also will require additional resources at the county level to keep kids safe.
We already are seeing an increase in the number of child abuse reports in Pennsylvania, and this means larger county caseloads and the need for more resources, not fewer. Without sufficient funding, counties will be forced to prioritize their limited staff resources to fulfill their statutory responsibilities in child protection and may be restricted in their ability to provide families the services and supports they need to safely care for their children in their homes.
A spending cut is heading in the wrong direction. We’re hopeful this will be addressed in budget negotiations and we encourage you to share these concerns with your legislators.
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