Budget cuts hit city's most vulnerable

Posted: February 09, 2012

IT'S BEEN rough going for Linda Cooper, whose only source of income is the $185 a month she gets from the state's General Assistance program - barely enough to buy basic amenities like toothpaste and deodorant.

And should the Legislature pass Gov. Corbett's $27.1 billion plan unveiled Tuesday, which proposes spending $20 million less than last year and eliminates the $319 million assistance program, Cooper could face even tougher times.

"I have no job," said Cooper, 52, who is HIV-positive and lives in Germantown. "I would have nowhere to go. I would have to go to a shelter."

The program was eliminated so the state can maintain health care for those "who do not qualify for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families or Medicaid," according to a budget document from Corbett's office.

The assistance program serves the state's most vulnerable - 68,000 Pennsylvanians and 35,000 Philadelphians, including disabled or sick adults without children, domestic-violence victims and adults in drug- or alcohol-treatment programs.

Critics are concerned that killing the program could increase homelessness.

"It costs more money to support someone who is homeless," said Michael Froehlich, a staff attorney with Community Legal Services. "The anticipated state savings will be more than made up in costs from other places."

Mayor Nutter said yesterday the proposed cuts would impact human services for the homeless and mentally disabled.

"Mental-health services appear to take a significant hit and we have a number of individuals in Philadelphia who really do need those services," Nutter said, adding that cutting homelessness programs is "of great, great concern to us." He said libraries, public-safety measures and public education may also take a hit.

State Sen. Vincent Hughes said the city's welfare system could lose $42 million.

City officials have said they'll have a better grasp of exactly how the proposed cuts may affect services in a couple of weeks.

Arthur Evans, the city's behavioral health commissioner, said that 25 percent of the city's population has some kind of mental-health problem.

"I think when you look at where the cuts are to state grant dollars that provide services for the uninsured . . . I haven't seen anything like this," Evans said.

City Councilwoman Marian Tasco plans to introduce a resolution today calling for hearings on the budget's impact on city programs.

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