Thursday, 30 May 2024

Lake Family Resource Center reports on impact of proposed cuts

LAKE COUNTY – Local social services programs could be hard hit if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's current budget proposals become reality.


On Tuesday, Lake Family Resource Center (LFRC) reported that Schwarzenegger's proposals include elimination of programs that would result in almost a $1 million loss to LFRC services.


Proposed cuts include eight of LFRC’s safety net programs, according to Executive Director Gloria Flaherty.


Those cuts include one of the agency’s revenue streams for Freedom House, its domestic violence shelter, funding for two teen parenting programs, the pregnancy prevention program, Healthy Families, and CalWORKS domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health programs, Flaherty said.


In past years, these “safety net” programs were mostly exempted from severe budget cuts or complete program elimination, said Flaherty.


But this year, that is most definitely not the case, with the state considering complete elimination of several of the agency's programs. In past years, when the state budget was late, Flaherty said LFRC had confidence that the programs would continue, even with some reduction. Last year the reduction was between 10 and 15 percent.


If the state follows through with eliminating the agency’s funding this year, more than 3,400 individuals – equal to 5 percent of the county's overall population – will go without services from LFRC annually, Flaherty reported.


“The programs being contemplated for elimination weave a safety net for some of the most vulnerable members of our Lake County community, and children, especially, will be at high risk,” said Christina Roth, chair of LFRC's Board of Directors.


Roth said if the state cuts Healthy Families – the children’s health insurance program that assists low-income, working families – more than 1,700 children in Lake County would lose their coverage, jeopardizing preventive care and other medical services.


That will result in a loss of more than $2 million per year to the local economy, LFCR reported.


The agency's highly effective teen parenting program provides services to more than 140 teens and their children every year, providing access to medical care, parenting development, prevention of second pregnancies and assistance in staying in school.


Limited domestic violence services, including the shelter, would survive due to other funding streams, but program staff would be cut by two-thirds, which would result in far more restricted services to survivors of domestic violence and their children.


Lake County’s teen pregnancy rate is falling due in part to the excellent work being done through the adolescent pregnancy prevention Community Challenge Program, according to LFRC. Several hundred young teens receive information about abstinence, results of early sexual activity, healthy relationships, and positive life choices through that program every year.


Flaherty said LFRC has taken the unprecedented action of advising its staff members of potential layoffs due to state budget impacts.


She said the agency has notified 12 people that if the state does not adopt a budget by July 1, they will be furloughed until adoption of the budget.


Depending on the state’s final actions, up to 25 of LFRC’s 57 staff may be permanently laid off.


In previous years, the agency had confidence that its programs would survive the budget process, even when the budget was late; that is not the case in the current year.


“I don’t think anyone can have confidence in the state’s processes this year – it just seems highly volatile and unpredictable,” said Flaherty. “We cannot accept the potential financial liability for the agency should we to continue to incur costs that would not be reimbursed.”


If the state budget is adopted after July 1 and programmatic cuts are made by the state retroactively, it is very unlikely that LFRC will receive any reimbursement for costs it incurs after June 30.


“The individuals who are at risk of being furloughed July 1, and others who may later be at risk, depending on legislative actions, are dedicated, well-trained, professional staff members; we are hopeful of continuing their employment, but if we cannot, other employers should seek them out,” Flaherty said. “These individuals would be an asset to any business or organization.”


LFRC will continue to provide a continuum of countywide family services including domestic violence response and counseling, the Freedom House shelter, mental health services, child abuse treatment, child abuse prevention, rape crisis center, Early Head Start, parenting, anger management and other kinds of classes and workshops, and teen lifeline.

 

“We urge Lake County residents to let Gov. Schwarzenegger and our local representatives, Assemblyman Wes Chesbro and Senator Pat Wiggins, know the impact of the loss of these services to our community,” said Flaherty. “Lake County does not have a ‘deep bench’ of community services – there is little to no duplication of the services being contemplated for elimination.”


The governor’s office can be reached by calling 916-445-2841, or faxing 916-558-3160; Wiggins’ contact numbers are 916-651-4002 (phone) and 916-323-6958 (fax); and Chesbro can be reached at 916-319-2001 (phone) and 916-319-2101 (fax).


Community members who would like to provide financial assistance to LFRC may make tax-deductible donations to the agency at 896 Lakeport Blvd., Lakeport, CA 95453.


Some of the agency’s programs that will continue can always use volunteers with experience and skills related to that program. LFRC also provides specialized training for volunteers in its domestic violence and sexual assault programs. Those who are interested in volunteering should call Michele Meek at 707-262-1611.

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