By Timothy J. Schmaltz
Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition
Imagine if Scottsdale’s entire population was struck with a natural disaster. We would rush to their aid immediately. We would marshal the resources of the state, community organizations and the faith community, like we did with Katrina refugees, even in the midst of our current economic disaster and take federal disaster relief funding.
When you add up all the people impacted by the Legislature’s health and human services cuts, without including the people who are being thrown into unemployment by these cuts, the results impact about the number of people living in Scottsdale or Gilbert. What the state Legislature has done in the state budget cuts for health and human services is to create our own state disaster on the scale of the City of Scottsdale.
Many children, adults and children with disabilities, seniors, their caregivers and their families will suffer tremendously and needlessly. The Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition (PAFCO) condemns the consequences of 2009 budget cuts imposed by the Legislature on the departments of Economic Security and Health Services and AHCCCS for children, people with disabilities, seniors, their caregivers and families. The cuts shred the tattered remains of the current state safety net.
The department cuts remove fundamental protections for our most vulnerable children, persons with disabilities and vulnerable adults by actually downsizing and restricting our child and adult protective services systems. Children will be forced into the foster care system increasing that caseload, trapping children in the state system for many years to come and actually increasing the state’s costs. Vulnerable adults will be at risk of abuse and exploitation, forced into more social isolation and lack of dignity.
These cuts will force low income single mothers and other families to give up their work and financial stability by losing child care essential to their financial independence. They will drive already poor families deeper into poverty and financial dependence. They will throw families into homelessness and abandon families stuck currently on the street. Elderly
will be forced into nursing homes or other institutions.
People with disabilities will languish in dependency. The cuts remove critical public health and mental health services for people who need them most. For the vast majority of people being cut from services, they have no other options.
By the department’s own admission, areas of the state will be left with no services. These reductions will fly in the face of many federal regulations for accuracy, accessibility, and timeliness of services and benefits.
Beyond the large number of layoffs being experienced in various state agencies, community services and health and human services agencies are being forced to lay off thousands of staff further contributing to the state’s economic woes and putting more families at risk.
Community agencies and faith organizations are being overwhelmed by rising demands at the same time that donations are down sharply. These cuts only compound the current lack of current community capacity to respond while adding to the economic downturn with more unemployment and decreasing economic activity.
We acknowledge the state’s dire revenues and recognize that actions on the state budget needed to be taken. However, there are options to all these cuts forced on the departments of Economic Security and Health Services and AHCCCS by the Legislature.
The governor with the Legislature must take immediate action to stop and restore funding of these cuts by immediately accepting and using all available federal stimulus funds for health and human services.
There are tremendous opportunities with that funding to undo much of the harm done by the Legislature. The state would take any federal relief if the crisis we faced as a state was a natural disaster and it is only right do the same now.
For the 2010 budget, the governor and the Legislature must take any further cuts off the table to essential services in the areas of health and human services to avoid more destructive actions against children, families and vulnerable adults. The 2010 budget must not do more harm. We must not repeat the current manufactured disaster of the 2009 cuts.
Long term, the state must do tax reform to create a fair, equitable and adequate revenue base and tax system to enable government to address its responsibilities for the common good.
The measure of a civilized humane society is how it treats its most vulnerable members particularly at their time of critical need. Government actions must not be sources of destruction and despair, but in partnership with community based organizations and faith communities, must be a sources of hope, support, and resilience for families.
Reprinted by permission of Timothy J. Schmaltz