Thanks to your advocacy, the poor and needy in Pennsylvania will receive more assistance than initially estimated from this year’s state budget. However, some programs were cut or received decreased funding. Here is a recap of some of the priority issue areas of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference:
Homeowner’s Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) The Legislature passed SB 1433 which will enable the PA Housing Finance Agency to reopen HEMAP and start accepting applications for loans this summer. This program has helped thousands of Pennsylvanians over the years by providing loans to homeowners who were faced with foreclosure through no fault of their own.
General Assistance This program, which allowed for a $205 stipend to those truly needy with no other place to turn, was not funded and there is no program to replace it. Advocates for the poor, including PCC, are extremely disappointed with the elimination of the General Assistance program and will be seeking to work cooperatively with the governor and DPW to find alternatives to assist those affected.
Human Services Development Fund (HSDF) This includes state dollars that go to counties to provide a wide range of human services. Initially, these funds were slated for a 20% cut. Upon final passage of the budget, HSDF was cut 10%. While we are pleased the full 20% cut was not made, PCC will continue to advocate for funding for these vital services.
Pro-Life The budget line item to fund the state’s alternatives to abortion program, Real Alternatives, contained a 5.2% increase. In a year where many programs were cut or level-funded, the PCC is pleased with this recognition of the value of life from conception.
Waiting List for People with Intellectual Disabilities In an unprecedented but much appreciated move, the final state budget includes funding for special education graduates and individuals with aging caregivers who are on a county emergency waiting list. There are about 16,000 on the waiting list for disability services in PA and this new money will help many of them access needed assistance. This is recognition is very encouraging.
Foster Care The legislature has moved to implement in Pennsylvania the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act. This plan allows older teens to receive foster care support until they turn 21. PA’s implementation of this program will present an opportunity for foster care children to prepare more adequately for their adult life. Additionally, the Commonwealth could now save $4.5 million in the current fiscal year and apply for millions of federal Fostering Connections dollars down the road.
Thank you again for your advocacy on behalf of unborn children, the poor and the disabled.
Joelle Shea is the Director of Outreach for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.