- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2002

BALTIMORE (AP) Advocates for the poor, disabled and homeless say budget cuts in state funding will come at a bad time, as a sagging economy and changes in welfare laws create a greater need for services.
The budget cuts are intended to address a projected $1.8 billion budget deficit over the next two years.
"Obviously, we're deeply concerned because what we're seeing is this incredible increase in need from people whose monthly or biweekly paychecks are not enough to make ends meet," said Alma Roberts, executive director of the Center for Poverty Solutions in Baltimore.
Miss Roberts and other advocates say they plan to fight attempts to address Maryland's budget woes by cutting programs that help the poor. "We have huge battles in front of us, so we're galvanizing," she said.
The state Department of Human Resources has been instructed to cut about 2.8 percent of its overall budget of $1.6 billion for this fiscal year, according to department officials.
However, because cuts are coming in the middle of the fiscal year, department officials face cutting about twice that amount to meet the 2.8 percent target for the year. The fiscal problems are compounded by a budget deficit the department is running.
And much of the budget is off-limits to cuts because it provides money for legally required services and pays for what are regarded as "core services."
Department of Human Resources Secretary Emelda P. Johnson said core services are those, such as foster care, that go directly to "protect at-risk children and fragile families." She estimated that 75 percent of the agency's budget goes to pay for core services.
The agency's budget cuts went into effect yesterday.
Among the first programs to be cut is child care for parents while they attend drug-treatment sessions at 14 substance-abuse treatment centers in Baltimore. The program was budgeted at $1.4 million a year.
"This is just going to create obstacles to treatment," said Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, Baltimore's health commissioner. "It's criminal to drop this. It's such an inexpensive service."
Frank Satterfield, director of the Glenwood Life Counseling Center, a drug-treatment center in Baltimore, said some parents wouldn't come to treatment because they had no one to care for their children or had no safe place to leave them while they were gone.
"This was a very abrupt elimination," he said. "We will keep ours open through December 31, but beyond that it is uncertain."
"I realize the state has a deficit, but there has to be another way to do this than balancing the budget on the backs of the poor again," he said.
Mr. Johnson met with advocates and service providers last week, asking for help in deciding which services might be cut. But that effort was rebuffed, said Charlie Cooper of Citizens' Review Board for Children, who was at the session.
"Advocates and service providers are not going to be involved in deciding what is to be cut," Mr. Cooper said. "We're going to go to the powers that be and try to keep from being cut."


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