Sunday, May 16, 2010

Budget called ‘devastating’

May 15, 2010, 02:44 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

Local officials are still penciling out exactly how much of the May budget revise released Friday will slash and burn through San Mateo County, but there is agreement on one point — it’s bad.

“We all know this is devastating,” said Connie Juarez-Diroll, legislative coordinator for San Mateo County.

County departments are now scurrying to figure out exactly what the budget message by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger means. As with most painful budgets, health and human services programs feature prominently on the chopping block. Schwarzenegger wants to completely eliminate CalWORKs, slash In-Home Support Services, cut mental health services by 60 percent and do away with all after-school programs aside from preschool.

Beverly Beasley Johnson, director of the Human Services Agency, said the cuts will most hurt already struggling families and children who need basic living and safety needs met.

“Upwards of 5,000 San Mateo County children would lose financial support for basic living needs such as shelter, clothing and utilities. Parents who rely on quality, affordable child-care in order to go to work will lose child-care assistance and children from all economic sectors will suffer from the cuts to child welfare services which include the child abuse hotline, child protective services and foster care.” Johnson said.

Those in the Health Department are equally concerned, particularly the proposal to cut local mental health services nearly in half.

“These funds are used to treat the most seriously ill people in our communities. We have a serious budget deficit to deal with, but the solution cannot be at the cost of our most vulnerable residents,” said Health Department Chief Jean Fraser.

Deputy County Manager Mary McMillan expects more information to be available beginning next week and cautions that the figures released Friday are just the beginning. The question now is how those proposals will be massaged and what will ultimately be passed by the Legislature.


Posted by Steve Sinai

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