ARIZONA EDITORIAL FORUM

By Timothy J. Schmaltz

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. We would take federal disaster relief and help the people with housing, food, family support services, health services, anything and everything necessary, both short and long term to help those families return to financial stability.

When you add up all the people impacted by legislature’s health and human services cuts, without including the people who are being thrown into unemployment by these cuts, the end results impact about the same number of individuals living in Scottsdale (240,000 people). What the legislature has done regarding the state budget cuts for health and human services is to create our own disaster.

The Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition condemns the consequences of 2009 budget cuts imposed 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 cuts may leave some areas of our state without any services. These reductions will fly in the face of many federal regulations for accuracy, accessibility, and timeliness of services and benefits.

Recently, hundreds of advocates came to the capital to protest cuts to health and human services. Two of the citizens, former general assistance participants who lost their places of residence and are now homeless told their stories to their state senator and were introduced on the Senate floor. The cuts have real consequences.

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 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.

Arizona must take immediate action to stop these cuts by accepting and using all available federal stimulus funds for health and human services, including child care, child welfare and other health and family services.

For the 2010 budget, Arizona must not continue or enact such reductions and program eliminations. Cuts to essential services provided by state agencies in the areas of health and human services must be taken off the table to the fullest extent possible to avoid more destructive actions against children, families and vulnerable adults. All proceedings regarding the 2010 budget must be completely open and transparent. Lump-sum cuts must be avoided to avert these types of masked consequences in the public policy process. The 2010 budget must not do more harm. We must not repeat the disaster of the 2009 cuts. There are many viable alternatives. The Arizona Budget Coalition has proposed over $6.7 billion worth of options at http://www.alternativebudgetcoalition.org/.

Long term, the state must look at 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.
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Schmaltz is a coordinator for Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition (PAFCO).
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Copyright © 2009 by the Arizona Editorial Forum. 5/09

1 comments:

Robert said...

Thanks for sharing good thoughts to helping unprivileged people...

Robert
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