State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Counties selected for human services block grant program

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 30, 2012 9:50 PM

Harrisburg-capitol-building-11.jpgNearly two dozen counties will now have more discretion over how state funding is spent among certain human services programs. The Corbett administration originally wanted to dole out the money this way statewide, but lawmakers lobbied for a pilot program to begin with just 20 counties.

30 applied. The ones selected will receive funding for seven different programs in a single lump sum, with fewer restrictions on how much to spend on each program. The group represents a wide range of demographics and population sizes. Carey Miller, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Welfare, said the agency is pushing for all counties to receive funding with this so-called block grant in the future.

“We are committed to expanding this statewide and hoping to work with the general assembly in doing so, especially for those ten that were not chosen to participate in the program,” she said.

Critics question whether such a schedule provides enough time to judge the block grant’s effectiveness. Funding levels were previously prescribed by the state. Opponents of the new block grant method contend it will force fights over funding between programs causing, for example, advocates for the intellectually disabled to square off against champions of substance abuse programs. A spokeswoman with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania says the organization is trying to figure out how to monitor the program across counties, with a focus on how clients are affected.

The pilot program is not what the administration originally wanted, either. It’s the result of a compromise with state lawmakers who were hesitant to support legislation to implement the program throughout the commonwealth.

The counties selected are Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Bucks, Butler, Centre, Chester, Crawford, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, Tioga, Venango, and Wayne.

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