On February 22 at the PA House Appropriations Committee hearing on the state budget, PA state representatives protested the budget proposal made by Governor Ed Rendell to reduce payments to Pennsylvania mental retardation service providers. Legislators criticized the department’s proposed budget for cutting payments to mental retardation service providers by 1 percent. A majority — ten out of seventeen — members of the House Appropriations Committee who asked questions at the House Appropriations Committee hearing on the Governor’s proposed budget for the Department of Public Welfare asked Acting Secretary Harriett Dichter to reconsider her recommendation to cut $6.1 million in state funds and $11.2 million in matching federal funds from the Community Mental Retardation Waiver appropriation. The members who made it clear to the Secretary that this cut is “unacceptable”, based on “flawed logic”, “doesn’t make a great deal of sense” included Representatives Jake Wheatley, William Adolph, Kathy Manderino, Dave Reed, Douglas Reichley, Dan Frankel, William Kortz, Tim Briggs, Richard Stevenson, and Mario Scavello. Acknowledging the planned cut in provider reimbursements, DPW officials said at the hearing that the proposed budget seeks to increase overall funding for mental retardation services by $40 million and expand services to 900 more people. FMI: See http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/cteeInfo/cteeTR.cfm?body=H&cde=4.
On February 22, PA House Appropriations Committee held a budget hearing to hear concerns from House members on the proposed budget for health and human services funded through the Department of Public Welfare. Representative Rick Mirabito (D-Lycoming) expressed concern about cuts to social service providers. “Programs have either had to cut services all together or limit services to a few, leaving many people without any means of help,” he stated. Representative Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery) urged the committee to provide funds for community mental retardation services. He said the governor’s proposed budget would reduce funding for community based services for people with mental retardation by $6.1 million. “I am not exaggerating when I say this proposed cut will literally send adults who have an intellectual disability back into institutions, instead of into our communities where they can work and contribute to society,” he stated. “We owe it to those adults with special needs who can’t help themselves to draw a budgetary line in the sand.” Representative Murt says that the cut to funding would be the first such cut in community service to people with mental retardation since the program began in 1966. Representative Bryan Lentz (D-Delaware) highlighted the need for an Adult Protective Services law. Representative Lentz also took issue with the $17.3 million in proposed cuts for community-based waiver programs for adults with mental retardation. “Community-based service providers are 100 percent funded by the state,” he said. “These providers who rely solely on the Commonwealth have nowhere else to turn.” FMI: See www.legis.state.pa.us. The comments of Representative Murt are posted on his website at www.RepMurt.com and at www.pahousegop.com.
In the February 27, 2010 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin, the PA Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) called for public comment on its proposed Federal 2011 State Plan. OVR also announced times and places at members of the public can offer their views and recommendations regarding vocational rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities. The plan currently in effect is for Federal fiscal year 2010 and serves as is a blueprint for the provision of vocational rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities living in Pennsylvania. Comment is being solicited regarding the following State Plan Attachments: Input and recommendations of the Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council; comprehensive system of personnel development; annual estimate of individuals to be served and costs of services; OVR’s goals and priorities; order of selection; distribution of Supported Employment Funds; and innovation and expansion activities. In addition to the Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan, the agency’s Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services will accept public comment on the Business Enterprise Program, Specialized Services for Children and Adults and Independent Living Services for older persons who are blind, which are unique to their funding. The announcement in the Pennsylvania Bulletin includes pertinent information for the upcoming public meetings. Written comments may be mailed to the appropriate OVR District Office serving the area in which the individual/organization member resides. Written comments must be received by 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 14, 2010. FYI: For additional information, reasonable accommodation requests or alternative format requests, call the OVR District Office conducting the public meeting. Individuals/organizations wishing to obtain a copy of the proposed FFY 2011 Combined Agency State Plan Attachments or other information should call the OVR district office contact person listed in the Pennsylvania Bulletin announcement. Copies of the approved FFY 2010 Combined Agency State Plan Attachments and the proposed FFY 2011 Combined Agency State Plan Attachments will be available on the OVR web site, www.dli.state.pa.us, by using ”Disability Services” as the Keyword.
On February 26, PA Acting Secretary of Public Welfare Harriet Dichter announced that the departments of Public Welfare and Labor & Industry are partnering in using federal Recovery Act funds to promote employment opportunities. Acting Secretary Dichter said that through additional Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) more Pennsylvanians, including youth seeking summer employment, will receive assistance in finding work. The jobs program will target low income Pennsylvanians, including TANF participants, SNAP (food stamps) recipients, and those receiving unemployment compensation. Working through local Workforce Investment Boards, the TANF funds from the ARRA will be used to support wages in subsidized jobs, supplementing other federal funds which provide career guidance, skill assessments, case management supportive services, basic skills and literacy training, as well as occupational training. PA Labor & Industry Secretary Sandi Vito said that the funds will be used to replicate the summer youth employment program. Guidelines for the summer youth and adult subsidized employment programs are available at: www.paworkforce.state.pa.us, under “Recovery Act Workforce Information,” then “Workforce Development.” FYI: See www.recovery.pa.gov.
On February 23, the Department of Labor & Industry announced Recovery Act Grants for Vocational Training to Aid Pennsylvanians with Disabilities with $2 Million available for Adaptive Driving Evaluation and Training Projects. Service providers interested in developing and conducting Adaptive Driving Evaluation and Training Services for Pennsylvanians with disabilities are encouraged to apply for grants from the Department of Labor & Industry’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. A total of $2 million in available funding is available through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Applications are due by March 26. A pre-application/proposal conference will be held on March 11 for applicants seeking more information or details about the application process. Successful proposals will help increase the employability of Pennsylvanians with disabilities by facilitating independent mobility with the enhancement and expansion of Adaptive Driving Evaluation and Training Services. This includes the purchase of vehicles equipped with adaptive equipment and technology; evaluating individual needs; and training individuals with disabilities in need of prescriptive modifications. Guidelines and more information are available at www.paworkforce.state.pa.us; click “Recovery Act Workforce Information” in the left navigation area, then, “Vocational Rehabilitation,” and “Vocational Rehabilitation Grants.” Answers to frequently asked questions will be available at that site three business days after they are received. FMI: See www.recovery.pa.gov.
On February 24, PA Governor Ed Rendell announced that a well-established financial management firm with a successful track record of investing in green technologies and sustainable forms of energy has been chosen to manage Pennsylvania’s new Green Energy Revolving Loan Fund. The Reinvestment Fund—known as TRF—will manage the loan program and provide financial capital to support cost-effective, energy conservation and renewable energy projects in existing, non-residential buildings. PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and TRF are finalizing the Loan Fund guidelines now, but in the meantime, TRF is soliciting names and contact information of non-residential building owners who may be interested in learning more about the Loan Fund. The new revolving loan fund is made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The federal Recovery Act will provide $12 million to the state for the Green Energy Revolving Loan Fund, but it required any firm applying to manage to provide a minimum match of $18 million in private funds. TRF committed to investing $36 million, which will allow for a $48 million pool of funds in the loan program. The new revolving loan fund will supply necessary capital for developing cost effective, energy-saving and renewable energy projects in existing, non-residential buildings throughout Pennsylvania. The projects create and retain jobs, and must cut an entire facility’s energy consumption by at least 25 percent or develop and install technologies on-site that produce electricity from renewable resources. More information, as well as a form for non-residential building owners who may be interested in learning more, is available at www.PaGreenEnergyLoanFund.com. Single-family dwellings are not eligible for financing under the new Green Energy Loan Fund. Homeowners interested in obtaining low-interest loans to help finance home-energy efficiency projects should seek assistance through the Keystone HELP program by visiting www.keystonehelp.com. FMI: See www.recovery.pa.gov.