Charities call for end to impasse in McKees Rocks

Budget delay halts programs

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The impact of the state budget impasse hit home in the McKees Rocks area last week as Focus on Renewal announced it was suspending four programs and laying off 28 workers due to the lack of state funding.

Today, a press conference at the F.O.R. community center will call for an end to the impasse. The director of the county's Department of Health and Human Services director, Marc Cherna, is expected to attend as well as representatives of several charitable foundations.

"We're going to be urging the state Legislature to get serious about the state budget," the Rev. Regis Ryan, F.O.R. director, said.

The press conference is being held at F.O.R. headquarters because of the impact the budget impasse has had on the agency, the dominant force in the Mc-Kees Rocks-area charitable and community service work for the past 40 years.

The four closed F.O.R. programs have no source of funding other than state funds and have "exhausted agency reserves," according to a written release.

The programs are Partners in Youth Transitions and Community Connections for Families, which provide behavioral health services to more than 100 families; Positive Parenting Program, which provides preschool and family support from three locations to more than 105 families; and F.O.R. Learning Center, which provides literacy and GED training to more than 100 people.

Two other F.O.R. agencies -- the Butterfly Garden early-learning center and the local connection to the ACCESS transportation system -- have cut staff and hours but remain open.

Butterfly Garden furloughed eight staff members Aug. 21, canceled its Pre-K Counts and school-age programs and shortened its 6:30 a.m.-to-6 p.m. hours to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The transportation system is running only from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The budget, which expired June 30, is locked in a political battle between Gov. Ed Rendell and Republicans in the state Senate, who want to cut spending. Without a budget, payments have stopped to state-funded charitable agencies.

The Rev. Ryan said the cutbacks are the worst he's seen in 34 years running the agency.

He said his biggest fear is the trickle-down effects that could occur. "The worst effect would be people losing their jobs because they have no day care and have no family support," he said, which would create even greater needs. He also is worried about getting programs started again if workers move on to other jobs.

Focus on Renewal's community center, library and arts center, which are more dependent on non-state funding sources, remain in full operation, as does the Family Foundations/Early Head Start program.


Brian David can be reached at bdavid@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0086.


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