Block Grants for Human Services a “Godsend”

State funding for county services may soon be streamlined, wasting fewer dollars on bureaucratic largesse and focusing aid on programs that are most effective at helping the needy.

Yesterday, the Counties Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) and the Department of Public Welfare, along with Lt. Governor Jim Cawley, announced a state budget agreement to combine funding for seven different human service programs into one line item—giving counties maximum flexibility over the distribution of welfare funds.

Counties have the option of implementing the block grant at once or gradually. For fiscal year 2012-13, half of all funds must move to the block grant. At least 75 percent of funds must be under the block grant next year and all funding must be block granted by 2014-15. CCAP President Jo Ellen Litz called the change a godsend;

I think once we get past the (funding debate) portion, the actual block grant is going to be a godsend and I think in the long run, we’re going to be very happy about the result.

Why is a block grant a godsend? Combining these programs not only simplifies budgets, but it streamlines bureaucracy. Counties now can submit one plan and one report instead of seven—that means less bureaucracy and more funds for those in need.

Critics contend this change will pit providers against each other—forcing them to compete for limited funds. But this is already the reality in Harrisburg where the capitol is under siege every June by various interests battling for more taxpayer money.

In the same way counties are more responsive to local needs, officials in Harrisburg understand the needs of Pennsylvanians better than bureaucrats in DC. Successful implementation of the Human Services Development Block Grant could go a long way in helping Pennsylvania gain the flexibility it desperately needs from the federal government. Without it, our welfare spending will continue grow faster than taxpayers ability to pay. When that happens, everyone suffers.