Rendell says New Budget Protect’s States Most Vulnerable Citizens

HARRISBURG – Gov. Edward G. Rendell said the newly enacted 2007-08 state budget reaffirms the commonwealth’s commitment to investing in and protecting the long-term health and welfare of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens.

“Throughout the budget process, we worked tirelessly to protect vital programs and services for Pennsylvania residents in need,” Rendell said. “This budget allows us to continue investing in the well-being of Pennsylvania seniors, low-income children and their families, as well as families supporting a loved one with mental retardation, mental illness or another developmental disability.”

The spending plan includes:

-Sufficient funding for services for more than 3,400 people with mental retardation – the largest increase in nearly a decade. This initiative will provide support to 68 percent of individuals on the emergency waiting list for residential services, as well as 100 percent of those waiting for non-residential services;
-Funding to serve adults with autism through the Autism Capitated Assistance program – an innovative, prepaid inpatient health plan. This budget also provides for new statewide training and technical assistance, information outreach, assessment procedures and program monitoring to continue improving services for adults with autism. The new Bureau of Autism Services will apply for an autism waiver, which would provide essential services to adults with autism, including respite, supports coordination and behavior supports;
-$56.8 million for Keystone Stars, Pennsylvania’s quality improvement initiative for child care providers, allowing 1,219 more children to benefit from quality early learning environments;
-An increased investment of $74 million in Child Care Works to continue subsidizing child care services for 221,000 low-income children and offering their parents an opportunity to work;
-Sufficient funding for a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for direct care staff who provide vital home and community-based services; and
-An increase of $18.9 million to provide community-based services and support for people with mental illness, as well as an additional $500,000 for respite services for children with serious emotional disturbances.

The governor’s budget also furthers Pennsylvania’s commitment to helping individuals get job training and permanent employment through funding for employment and training initiatives. As of May, a record 52.3 percent of Pennsylvanians receiving cash assistance were working or participating in job training and other activities designed to help them find work — putting the state on target to meet the new federal work participation rates for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. This is the highest work participation rate seen in Pennsylvania since the TANF program was enacted more than a decade ago.

In addition, the number of children and adults receiving cash assistance statewide has declined by 16.9 percent since October 2005, resulting in a $72.3 million decrease in TANF cash assistance payments over the past two years.

“Pennsylvanians can be proud that, through this budget, we are extending a helping hand to those in need by funding programs and services that will help them to achieve success in the community and self-sufficiency for themselves and their families,” said Secretary Estelle B. Richman. “This funding truly represents our shared commitment to helping those who cannot help themselves.”

Pennsylvania’s TANF program provides short-term cash assistance to families when the support of one or both parents is interrupted, or when family income from employment and other sources does not meet basic needs.

DPW will also continue to provide health care to 1.9 million Pennsylvanians through the Medical Assistance program, of which 81 percent are children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.

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