Federal Funding: Why some Pa. human services get money over others?

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Millions of dollars are currently sitting inside the Pennsylvania State Treasury, waiting to be sent to an assortment of human services groups throughout the commonwealth, but are unable to for reasons which are unclear.

"These are federal tax dollars, sitting in the treasury," said State Rep. Stephen Bloom. "We need to make it a priority to release that money."

Rep. Bloom (R-Cumberland) says he and his Republican colleagues have been trying to free up the federal money for the last few months. He and Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams) each have sponsored legislation which would release federal funding to human service groups, such as domestic violence and rape crisis centers, as well as school districts. Currently, under the Pennsylvania constitution, federal money is unable to be spent without being approved by the General Assembly.

"The governor is right," Bloom said. "There has to be an appropriation. He can’t just willy-nilly release those dollars. But we have bills sitting in committee, ready to go, that would do that very thing."

Governor Wolf is, however, able to release federal government money if they are "organizations which deal in emergency services and things that affect the health and welfare of the population." He made the statement at a press event Wednesday.

This week, in the midst of a state budget impasse reaching its fifth month, Governor Tom Wolf signed off on the release of federal funds to domestic violence centers. Money from the Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA) arrived in bank accounts of domestic violence programs on Tuesday morning.

However, as of Wednesday, many human services which can be considered as "emergency"-based and affect the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians, had not received any federal funding.

  • Gaudenzia Inc., a drug-rehab center in Harrisburg, confirmed to FOX43 they had not received any funding.
  • In Dauphin County, mental health groups and child and youth services have not received federal money.
  • The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) also had not been given any federal funds, as of Thursday.

Kristen House, public affairs officer for PCAR, said funding is currently in the works, but is not immediate. She estimated the arrival of funds could take anywhere from 4-6 weeks.

Rep. Mark Rozzi, a democrat from Berks County and strong supporter of PCAR, said Republicans and Wolf's office were making the holding-up of federal funds a political move.

"To see political posturing going on over rape victims? Are you kidding me?" he asked.  "I believe the governor should step up and release those funds immediately."

Rozzi speaks with a stern look in his eye, and strong hand movements. Talking about rape victims fires him up. His House Bill 661 would extend the statute of limitations on child sex abuse victims. However, it has sat unmoved in the House Judiciary Committee since it was introduced in February.

"Why are we not doing the right thing to protect our children, our men, our women?" Rozzi asks of Gov. Wolf. "You're the leader of this commonwealth. Step up and release the funds to the victims who so desperately need them."

On Wednesday, Governor Wolf's office responded to a question on why some human services receive funding while others do not through a statement. "As the administration has said from the beginning, the commonwealth has continued to make payments and continue operations in all areas that affect the health, safety, and protection of Pennsylvanians, or as required under Federal Law, state court decisions, or the Pennsylvania Constitution - these include payments for the State Police, Corrections, and school lunches," Wolf press secretary Jeffrey Sheridan wrote.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, the DHS has helped fund "over $300 million" in child care expenses, as of the end of November. An estimated 45 percent of the $300 million is coming from federal programs, such as the Child Care Development Fund Block grant (CCDF), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), and Supplemental Nutrition Services Program (SNAP).