Pa. lawmakers consider beefed-up funding requests in state budget hearings

Written by on March 10, 2022

Pa. lawmakers consider beefed-up funding requests in state budget hearings

By Sam Dunklau
March 10, 2022

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Department of Human Services wants Pennsylvania lawmakers to agree to spend at least $3 billion more out of the state’s largest fund to support its several dozen programs.

The agency says it needs the extra cash to replace federal money that helped pay for things like health care services during the pandemic.

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Human Services Secretary Meg Snead says on top of that, it needs to help service providers pay their direct support professionals more.

Those workers help Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities, among others.

“They do really, really difficult work every day, and the least we can do is lift them out of poverty so they can serve more people and be there for us when we need them at the end of the day,” Snead said.

The department also wants to use some of its remaining federal pandemic relief money to help providers pay their direct support workers at least $15 an hour.

Advocates are asking for at least $18 an hour for those workers.

DHS officials are also asking the coming year include several hundred million more in funding for mental health and child welfare services.

A budget hearing also was held in Harrisburg for the state Department of Education. It came a day after after Gov. Tom Wolf visited William Allen High School in Allentown and urged lawmakers to approve $1.9 billion more in state funding.

Around three-fourths of that increase would go directly to K-12 school districts. If approved, it would be the biggest education spending increase in state history.

Some Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature say they’re not sure if a big increase would lead to better test scores.

They point to a fiscal watchdog report that shows money didn’t affect test scores during the 2018 school year.

Education Secretary Noe Ortega says that report didn’t look at things like graduation rates or attendance.

“Resources and certain factors do play a role in the outcomes of students, especially in students of special populations, and that is something that we all agree on,” Ortega said.

State lawmakers agreed to give schools a $300 million increase last year, and the House’s chief Republican budget maker says they’ll probably get more money this year, too.

The Education Department also wants school libraries and state-related universities to gain additional funding next year.

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