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Politics & Government

As PA Budget Impasse Stretches On, Social Service Providers Ask For Help

In a bid to establish a safety net for part of the state’s social safety net, the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association is urging state lawmakers to offer some help as the budget impasse hits the one-month mark.

The trade group sent letters to lawmakers in mid-July asking them to consider a short-term funding measure and held a press conference in Pittsburgh last week to drum up support. The group has also suggested that the state provide interest-free loans to social service agencies and nonprofits, “similar to what was done for state employees the last time the budget was not passed on time.”

RCPA President Richard Edley said human service providers are in a tough spot when they can’t receive state and county funding during an impasse.

“A lot of people immediately go to, ‘Wow, so the programs will shut down,’” said Edley. “No, they don’t shut down, but they have to come up with the money. So they go to banks again — many are already tapped out on lines of credit — and try to get another line of credit. They try to get loans. They try to piece it together to continue the services.”

Many providers say they’ll have to borrow to cover operations starting next month or in September. Some say they are still paying interest on the loans they took out during the budget impasse of 2009, when a spending plan wasn’t finalized until October.

A spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf said the administration wants to minimize the impact of the budget stalemate on human services. Wolf’s office has not responded to questions about providers’ request for a stopgap measure or no-interest loans.

“The governor’s strong preference is a balanced budget with a severance tax to fund our schools and adequate funding for social services – for the first time in many years,” said Mark Nicastre, the governor’s director of communications.

He said the commonwealth cannot issue interest-free loans.