Agencies react to budget cuts

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(Host) About half of the $11 million in proposed state budget cuts fall on the Agency of Human Services. It’s the largest agency of state government, and it offers services to some of the state’s neediest citizens.

Administration officials want to trim a number of human services programs. One of those is a $900,000 savings in a program that provides income assistance to the elderly and disabled. Michael Sirotkin represents the Community of Vermont Elders.

(Sirotkin) “They have incomes generally around $7,000 a year. Every year the cost of living goes up and every year the federal government acknowledges that and tries to send them a few more dollars – $15, $20 more to keep pace with their daily expenses. These people are now going to be level-funded at the exact level that they were for 2002. They will have to live on the same amount of money in 2003. There are about 11,000 Vermonters; they are truly the poorest of the poor members of our society.”

(Host) The Dean administration also wants to trim budgets for mental health programs. But Ken Libertoff of the Vermont Association for Mental Health applauds the administration for sparing direct services:

(Liebertoff) “The advocates in the mental health community have continued to feel very strongly that cutting direct services should be the last priority. And we think in this case the Department of Developmental and Mental Health Services and the governor’s office listened.”

(Host) Advocates like Michael Sirotkin say they understand cuts are necessary. They hope to work with legislative budget writers to explore alternatives to some of the reductions proposed by the Dean administration.

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