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Braced for Budget Cuts
Jewish groups are bracing for the impact that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed $27.1 billion budget could have on poor and elderly constituents.
The budget includes hundreds of millions of dollars in potential cuts and no tax increases. Corbett has stressed the need to instill greater fiscal responsibility and to cut down on fraud and waste in state government.
In recent years, local Jewish agencies have received tens of millions annually from state sources.
The money goes toward a wide range of services that benefit both Jews and non-Jews, including nursing homes, employment programs, foster-care services, drug and alcohol treatment, child care and food for needy families.
Groups such as the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and agencies it serves are concerned, for example, about Corbett's proposal to eliminate the state's General Assistance fund, which provides cash and medical assistance for the disadvantaged.
Statewide, about 70,000 people receive $205 a month for domestic violence survivors, adults caring for the sick or disabled, adults in a drug or alcohol treatment program and children living with an unrelated adult.
The Department of Public Welfare has estimated that cutting the cash portion of the program could save the Commonwealth $150 million a year.
Last fiscal year, Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia served 40 Jewish clients who received a monthly payment from the fund, according to Brian Gralnick, director of Federation's Center for Social Responsibility.
It would be difficult for Jewish agencies to replace the close to $100,000 needed if the fund was eliminated, he said.
Stacy Levitan, executive director of the Judith Creed Homes for Adult Independence, which serves and houses 70 clients, mostly Jews, with autism, traumatic brain injuries and special needs, called the last couple of years "a horrendous time" and added: "I don't see it getting any better."
Levitan said that, right now, the state's Office of Developmental Programs, which funds the care of some of JCHAI's clients, is slated to be cut by about 20 percent, or about $30 million, but the final budget could end up cutting more.
Some groups are expressing relief that their funding is slated to remain stable.
For example, the allocation to the State Food Purchase Program is slated to remain flat at $17,338,000. That program allows groups, such as the Jewish Relief Agency, to disburse food to clients in need.
Amy Krulik, director of JRA, said flat funding is better than a cut, but it's still nothing to cheer about since they are continually serving more clients and the cost of food continues to rise.
"We have ducked the budgetary knife at this moment," said Krulik. "It is some small victory in not seeing a program that supports low income families being massacred by the governor."
In the proposed budget, funding for the Education Improvement Tax Credit, which the Federation has promoted, is slated to remain at $75 million.
Among other provisions, the program allows businesses to receive state tax credits for giving to scholarship funds for private schools, including Jewish day schools.