Nonprofit leaders push for 'fair' state budget

Rally in McKees Rocks draws 200

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The former bank building in McKees Rocks was packed with more than 200 people. Some had signs slung around their necks that read, "Pass a fair budget now," while others held posters calling for help for adult education, the homeless, mothers and other needs.

The Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership hosted a news conference yesterday at the Focus on Renewal community center to discuss the impact the Pennsylvania budget impasse has on local communities. The state has been operating on a partial budget that doesn't include many social services since the fiscal year began July 1.

"It really is a disaster in the making," said Marc Cherna, director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. The department has 400 agencies under contract that receive $900 million in state funding per year.

His department is currently holding $25 million in unpaid bills for the month of July alone. Mr. Cherna said that in the 35 years he's worked with government agencies and funding, this is the worst budgeting situation he's ever faced.

Other nonprofit leaders also spoke at the event about organizations cutting off services and laying off employees.

"Let's lay off the legislators," a man from the crowd shouted during one of the speeches, which was received by hearty cheers and applause.

Funding for nonprofit programs has been either cut or reduced drastically as Pennsylvania enters its third month without a budget. A total of 3,500 nonprofit organizations are affected by the impasse. The nonprofit partnership has a membership of 350 groups. The partnership estimates that 30,000 people it serves will lose benefits by next month if a full budget is not passed. This includes aid for employment, child care, transportation, housing and education.

"The picture I'd like to paint is the faces, the eyes, the minds and the bodies of the individuals ... not being embraced by that blanket of warmth and support that they all need" because of the lack of funding to nonprofit groups, said the Rev. Regis Ryan, 69, executive director of Focus on Renewal, a community outreach organization in McKees Rocks.

His organization laid off 28 staff members and cut four programs this week alone.

"I was laid off Friday," said Adrienne Roberts, 39, of McKees Rocks, who was the program director for Positive Parenting, one of the programs cut by Focus on Renewal.

"We hope the budget will pass and we can give back services to 105 families," she said. "Now they're left with no support."

Statewide, 64 percent of nonprofits are relying on reserves and 28 percent are resorting to lines of credit to stay afloat. Pennsylvania may reimburse the money borrowed once the budget is passed, but it does not reimburse interest.

"We'll have to eat the interest on our own," said Joe Moyo, 67, director of the adult education department at the Bidwell Training Center, which provides vocational training to 400 students per year.

Michel Sauret can be reached at or 412-263-1478.


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