Four southwestern Pennsylvania counties are among the 20 that will be allowed more flexibility when it comes to using Department of Public Welfare dollars. Allegheny, Butler, Beaver and Greene counties have been chosen to be part of the block grant pilot program.
The 2012-2013 Pennsylvania budget reduces spending on DPW programs by 10-percent but the Corbett administration suggested that the counties be allowed to spend the money with more flexibility. Opponents pushed back and the legislature reached a compromise allowing 20 counties to try out the new funding plan while the remaining counties continue to get program-specific funding.
Officials in Beaver County say they will operate under the new system as effectively and efficiently as possible while hopefully not having to cut any services.
“Obviously with the 10-percent cut some things are going to be changed, hopefully more administratively than within the program itself that provides the actual service to the public. So we’re looking at that, and we’re looking at how we can direct those dollars and maybe make ourselves a little more efficient in the process,” said Vince LaValle, the Financial Administrator for Beaver County.
Traditional funding streams predetermine how much money is to be spent on each program, resulting in a system that supporters of the block grant program say was very inefficient.
LaValle thinks the new system will give the county the opportunity to fund areas that have more of a need and by doing so the county will be able to help the actual recipients more.
Butler County Deputy Human Services Administrator, Joyce Ainsworth, mimicked that thought saying one of the biggest advantages to the new system is being able to shuffle funds as needed.
“If one of the systems does run out of funds, and the other system is dependent upon that. They can use their own funding instead of not being able to get what they needed.”
Butler County has been asking for this for years according to Ainsworth in an effort to gain more local control.
“It’s directed by the state but run through the counties, so the counties actually implement the programs, but the state makes the decisions. So we have been saying that this has made sense for a very, very, very long time. But with all the different departments at the state, I guess it has just been impossible for them to do it until now.”