State House Sound Bites

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

County commissioners put human services block grant expansion at top of wish list

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 29, 2013 6:26 PM

County commissioners across the state are calling for a statewide expansion of a relatively new effort to pay for human services programs.

The human services block grant is a way for counties to receive money for seven different services in a single pot. A pilot program that began this past fall currently allows 20 counties to receive funding this way.

Critics fought hard last year to keep the program limited. But the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania wants it made available to all counties.

Spokeswoman Lisa Schaefer took issue with the criticism that the block grant funding approach introduces a fight for funding between programs.

“Well, the fight for funding goes on across all of our human services line items, we’ve seen that across the board, regardless of the block grant concept,” she said. “The point of the block grant is to better treat an individual as opposed to having that funding stuck within the various line items.”

Counties participating in the pilot program have only just submitted their budget plans for the services being funded by the block grant. But CCAP said it expects the results of the program to confirm their hopes, not critics’ fears.

“They certainly have the expectation of better serving our constituents,” said Schaefer of commissioners pushing for the block grant program’s expansion.

Governor Corbett is likely to support statewide availability of the block grant. In his budget proposal last year, he called for all counties to participate in the program.

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