Corbett proposes expanding county block grants, GOP lawmaker objects

Gov. Corbett urged lawmakers today to expand the pilot block grant program for human services funding that he says is proving succesful.

But he's not going to get any help from the Republican chairman of the House human services committee.

Just last week Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R., Bucks) moved his bill to abolish the grant program out of his committee.

Corbett, backed by representatives of some of the 20 counties who were chosen to be part of the program last year, said the program is giving counties flexibility and serving more people who need services such as mental health, drug and alcohol counseling.

"Block grant funding gives counties the flexibility to allocate and redirect funding where it is needed most," said Corbett at a news conference.  "Traditional funding streams mandated how much money was spent on each program, resulting in an inefficient, one-size-fits-all system."

But DiGirolamo says since the counties only began receiving money in January, it was far too early to claim victory.

He also said the block grant program pits one service area against one another in competition for a single pool of funding.

And he said there is no provision for an independent evaluation of the “pilot” program before adding more counties.

DiGirolomo's bill (House Bill 806) passed out of his committee last week. It would replace the block grant program with another funding structure.

“This whole process concerns me,” he said. “It is not the kind of evidence-based policy that the citizens of the Commonwealth expect and deserve from our government.”

But Corbett says demand for the program is there and counties are free to opt out if it does not work for them.

 Berks County commissioner Christian Leinbach, who spoke at the news conference, said the block grants allow participating counties, like his, to shift funding from underused areas to meet demand elsewhere.

He said in several counties with chronic wait lists for some services have been able to eliminate the wait for the first time in a decade.




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