Child and community grants could be cut

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Child protection services and services for adults needing mental health assistance could see a funding reduction in the 2012-2013 biennium under a bill approved 11-7 by the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee.

Sponsored by Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), HF128 would reduce children and community services grants by $38.5 million, emergency general assistance  by $15.9 million, county child support enforcement administration costs by $6.7 million , emergency Minnesota supplemental aid by $2.2 million and adult mental health services for those under State-Operated Services by $1.17 million.

“We are faced with a challenge that’s bigger than anybody ever had with less resources to draw on” Abeler said. “This is how we budget sometimes. … This is a drop in the ocean for the numbers.”

Mary Regan, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Child Caring Agencies, said the reductions will directly affect “children, adolescents and adults who experience dependency, abuse, neglect, poverty, disability and chronic health conditions.”

The majority of the funds “are spent on child protection to intervene and investigate in allegations of abuse and neglect,” she added. There are no other organizations or nonprofits that are able to investigate the 17,218 reports of maltreatment that happened in 2009, she said.

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) said the bill makes a needed structural change.

When the state has a surplus, increases in certain areas create an expectation. But in the lean years that follow, when money is scarce, a restructuring is required to meet needs, she said.

While the permanent cuts are similar to last special session’s budget reductions, there were federal dollars to use as backfill, noted Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph).

The bill now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee. There is no Senate companion.

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