Philanthropies campaign to protect human services in budget deal
Leaders to document damage from state budget war; Call for permanent reform of budget process to protect human services
PITTSBURGH, Nov. 11, 2015 — With the Pennsylvania budget standoff now dragging into its fifth month, The Pittsburgh Foundation and the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania are calling upon human services nonprofits and residents connected to them to join in #PApeoplecount.
The statewide social media campaign has been created to demonstrate the vital nature of services and the damage incurred from these nonprofits being caught up in a months-long budget standoff.
While the organizations’ leaders are heartened that the latest news reports indicate there may be progress toward an agreement, the campaign is proceeding in order to influence negotiators to deliver results benefiting human services nonprofits as quickly as possible. The leaders also are calling on state officials to reform the budget process.
The goal is to convince lawmakers and the governor to fully fund human services organizations this year and commit to budget process reforms so that nonprofits are no longer held hostage during political stalemates.
The campaign launched today with special video messages from those connected to a range of human services nonprofits across the state. They describe how the political battle that has stalled passage of a budget is affecting their operations, which serve Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents. These short videos, along with photos and other advocacy tools, will be accessible on a dedicated website, PApeoplecount.org, where they can be downloaded and used across a range of social media platforms.
In addition, Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Maxwell King and United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania President and CEO Robert Nelkin are inviting community foundations and United Way organizations across the state to join them in a coalition to publicly advocate for full funding of human services in this year’s budget and for permanent reforms to prevent future hold-ups.
“We are putting the spotlight on a dysfunctional budget process in which the first casualties of a standoff are organizations delivering critically important services to those who are least able to protect themselves,” King said in announcing the social media and coalition-building campaigns. “We believe many others connected to human services delivery share the same sense of responsibility to look beyond the current crisis and advocate for long-term reforms.”
King said #PApeoplecount is a non-partisan initiative. It will be directed to legislative leaders of both political parties and Gov. Tom Wolf.
The campaign asks Pennsylvanians who care about a strong human services sector to take three important actions:
- Flood social media with documentation of the hurt caused by the impasse: Visit PApeoplecount.org to download videos, photos and other advocacy tools and then share the content via social media channels and on the social media sites of the governor and legislature.
- Create an “impact blizzard” to show the power of the nonprofit sector: Use social media to document the benefits that nonprofits supply each year. Post the number of families your food pantry feeds annually; or the number of clients you serve who are facing homelessness or chronic housing insecurity; or the number of young adults receiving job training through your programs. By passing on these benefit statistics and adding the hashtag #PApeoplecount to every post, nonprofits will create an impact blizzard with the potential to overwhelm social media. Impact blizzard examples are available on the PApeoplecount.org website.
- Demand reform: Contact your state legislators and the governor to demand that they fully fund human services and fix the budget process so that nonprofits are never again held hostage during budget wars. Politicians’ contact information is available at PApeoplecount.org.
“Each day the budget impasse continues is another day of crisis for the dedicated nonprofits that deliver vital human services to citizens who often are in dire need,” said the United Way’s Nelkin. “We are intent on leading a campaign that raises this to the highest possible level of attention and gets the conversation going on structural changes so that human services aren’t disrupted in future budget stalemates.”
Nearly $765 million in county-managed human services funding is being held up as a result of the delay. The state typically makes human services payments to the counties on a quarterly basis. So far this year, the July and October state payments to Pennsylvania counties have not been made. The cut-off funding includes appropriations for community mental health, homeless assistance, behavioral health services, child welfare prevention services and the base program for disabilities and human services development.
The budget standoff already has created significant challenges for nonprofits that provide services in the areas of mental and behavioral health, intellectual disabilities, child welfare, drug and alcohol assistance, housing and homelessness, food assistance and job training, among other vital services. News stories of nonprofit closures include:
- York nonprofit to close for 3 weeks because of state budget crisis, WITF-FM, Nov. 5, 2015
- Berks nonprofit groups reeling due to state budget impasse, Reading Eagle, Oct.1, 2015
- Local nonprofits hurting during Pennsylvania budget impasse, WFMZ-TV, Oct. 15, 2015
- In Lebanon County, a near-death blamed on Pa. budget standstill, WITF-FM, Oct. 26, 2015
To learn more about the campaign visit PApeoplecount.org.