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Recently Pennsylvania has begun adopting new spending measures to try and alleviate some of the budgetary issues that are common to many states. Typically, states allocate funds to individual programs and these programs are mandated to operate within those funds, regardless of whether they have been given enough funding. Often, these budgets fail to take into account the actual needs of the program, but rely more on making sure some obscure bottom line is maintained. Often, budgets are either not sufficient or offer more funds than necessary to run a program.
Periodically, some state officials have opened an assault on a series of welfare-related curriculums that provide fundamental health, sustenance, and supplementary safety-net amenities to a majority of Pennsylvania’s most susceptible residents, as well as children, elderly, and disabled Pennsylvanians. They have emphasized that welfare cases are on the increase and that spending on such programs is large and growing and, in response, has endorsed a series of harsh new strategies that could severely restrict access to these services.
This system of budgetary management not only affects how states spend their money on mental health and mental disability programs and behavioral health services, but also how money is spent for education. In an effort to remove some of these aforementioned obstacles, Pennsylvania has decided to allow 20 of its 30 counties the opportunity to participate in a new program that would allow each county the opportunity to determine how funds are dispersed to their various government-funded programs. For instance, if a county allocates funds for one program and that program runs out of money prior to a new fiscal year, counties will now have the option to provide that program with additional money. This is an option that is not available under traditional budgetary management systems. Though only in place for one year to date, these counties feel they have experienced positive gains under this system, with plans to offer the remaining 10 counties the option to implement this system.
Proponents of the Monetary System
Proponents of this new system feel that it allows monies to be more effectively spent, thus more adequately funding the programs that need to be funded and cutting funds to programs that always experience a surplus. This allows counties to better service the needs of its citizens, creating a happy, more positive community. Using this new system, some counties in Pennsylvania have been able to combine related programs, for example homelessness and mental health programs, to provide better service delivery. This ability to collaborate services allows individuals to have more of their needs met. Other counties have experienced increased transparency, being able to more easily follow where funds are being spent.
But, as with any new change, you have proponents of the change, and you have opponents of the change. And one of the biggest arguments of opponents to flexibility funding is that some programs may be overlooked as unnecessary and completely lose funding, though the community may still feel there is a need for the program. However, that is a concern of the traditional funding system as well, with annual budget cuts constantly being on city meeting agendas throughout the U.S. This concern can be alleviated through community activism efforts, to keep lawmakers aware of the issues of their constituency.
Given the condition of the economy, and the fact that the government is becoming less able to fund many of its’ current programs, states are finding it more and more necessary to find ways to better manage their funds. Pennsylvania has definitely offered a viable solution to this dilemma with it “flexible funding” programs. Based on the positive gains that many of the counties under this plan have experienced, it may be worthwhile for other states to try and adopt similar systems for managing their money. And since this is still a relatively new program, going on a year, many states may be hesitant to make such drastic changes, but it may be beneficial to pilot the program in certain programs, before generalizing it completely. This is an example of American ingenuity. Communities deciding where their budget goes make this funding process an example of democracy.
Want to get this in your community?
Share this funding method with your local law makers as well as prominent community heads. Volunteer at local organizations within Health and Human Services or get a masters in human services and work with the department or its programs full time.
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