by David Safier
The NY Times headline is States Slashing Social Programs for Vulnerable. And what state does the article focus on? You guessed it.
“There’s no question that we’re getting short-term savings that will result in greater long-term human and financial costs,” said Linda J. Blessing, interim chief of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, expressing the concerns of officials and community agencies around the country. “There are no good options, just less bad options.”
Arizona has one of the nation’s highest deficits in relation to its budget. As revenues sank late last year, forcing across-the-board cuts this spring, the child protection agency stopped investigating every report of potential abuse or neglect, and sharply reduced counseling of families deemed at risk of violence. Some toddlers with debilities like autism and Down syndrome are not getting therapies that can bring lifelong benefits. And here, as in other states, the drive to help disabled people live at home has been set back.
Ms. Blessing, of the Department of Economic Security, said her agency had already laid off 800 workers, including 15 percent of its child protection investigators, and imposed furloughs amounting to a 10 percent pay cut.
In one bit of good news for the department and its clients, the state has secured $18 million from the stimulus package to save child care subsidies for the working poor.
But some efforts to prevent child abuse, like in-home counseling of troubled families, have been deeply cut. This presents investigators with a stark choice: either remove children and put them in foster care or, as one case worker put it, “wait for something bad to happen.”
I guess all of this is good news, at least according to Russell Pearce who said Wednesday, as I mentioned in another post, Arizona needs to "get back on the track of government doing very little for us."