Human service providers testified Thursday during a state House Democratic Policy Committee hearing that programs they offer clients can absorb no further funding cuts.
Officials from Community Services Group, North Central Sight Services, Genesis HealthCare and Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living were among those testifying at Lycoming College.
The hearing was hosted by state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, a committee member.
A number of local people representing various human service programs testified Thursday at a state hearing here hosted by state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-city, in the middle.
Mirabito and other lawmakers are tasked with coming up with a budget for next year.
Gov. Corbett has proposed a $27.1 billion spending plan that calls for various spending cuts, including cuts to human services programs.
The Senate budget proposal of $27.7 billion partially restores some such cuts.
"I think it is wrong for us as citizens to accept that there is no money," Mirabito said at one point in the hearing. ""We have to look at our priorities."
Renee Sluzalis, CEO of Roads to Freedom, Williamsport, said the cuts keep coming, despite increased costs for programming.
This year, Roads to Freedom is facing a 9-percent decrease.
In recent years the agency has cut staff and reduced the number of clients it serves.
Roads to Freedom empowers people with disabilities by providing them with resources, options and services toward obtaining freedom in their lives.
But Sluzalis said without such services people can face being institutionalized, which results in even greater expenses for everyone.
"That doesn't make fiscal sense," she said.
Isn't it better, she asked, to have those same people living in the community, working at jobs and contributing to the economy?
Bob Garrett, president and CEO of North Central Sight Services, said the blind and visually impaired cannot suffer any additional funding cuts.
He noted that his agency contracts with the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind to provide prevention of blindness services and help for the blind and visually impaired.
The Pennsylvania Association for the Blind receives $2.153 million shared by 66 counties.
That's a 16.7 percent decrease from the previous funding total.
"We have already cut staff and asked people to do more," Garrett said.
Blake Apsokardu, administrator of Genesis Healthcare-Rose View Center, said Gov. Corbett's proposed budget will reduce Medicaid payments to nursing homes in Mirabito's legislative district by about $877,222.
Just under 75 percent of Rose View's residents are on Medicaid.
Medicaid cuts in turn trigger the loss of additional federal dollars, he added.
The Senate budget proposal restores some funding to many programs slashed under Corbett spending plan, including to Medicaid.
But Apsokardu said that is not nearly enough money.
"While the majority of my testimony is in direct response to the governor's proposed budget, I am aware of the recent passage of the Senate's budget proposal," he said. "It restores 2 percent of the 4 percent cut proposed by the governor. ... That, in turn, would mean the Senate's budget restores $23.2 million and the subsequent $27.8 million in federal match dollars. While helpful, it is still not enough to keep Pennsylvania's nursing homes from having to cut staff, reduce wages and benefits, and even limit the number of Medicaid patients in their care."
Lisa Basci, of Community Services Group, said state cuts in the past two years have already resulted in her agency discontinuing some services.
Community Services provides various support for those with intellectual disabilities and mental health challenges.
Among the more difficult decisions the agency had to make was the closing of a group home used to house clients, she said.
Also testifying was Dr. J. Morris Smith, coordinator of Shepherd of the Streets, an outreach ministry.
Morris noted that while Shepherd of the Streets receives contributions rather than government funding, it nevertheless is affected by budget cuts.
He noted that many clients have a Medical Assistance card, which helps the uninsured and under-insured in the purchase of prescription drugs.
But budget constraints have brought increased restrictions for use of the cards.
Several citizens also testified, including Scott Miller, of Williamsport.
Miller said Corbett budget cuts are creating a climate in which everyone is fighting for funding portions.