Magazine article Policy & Practice of Public Human Services

Letter from the Executive Director

Magazine article Policy & Practice of Public Human Services

Letter from the Executive Director

Article excerpt

Since assuming the APHSA executive director position last September, I've met with state and local human service leaders throughout the country. During these meetings, the current budget shortfall has consistently emerged as the primary concern facing human service professionals today.

Since 2001, 30 states have tapped reserve funds and implemented budget cuts in the wake of declining tax revenues, which resulted from a sustained national recession and terrorist attacks against the United States. This year, state and local human service agencies are once again facing serious fiscal challenges attributable to a significant and sustained decline in state tax revenues and rising health care costs. According to the National Governors Association, nearly every state budget is facing a shortfall in revenues this year and the total budget gap is estimated at more than $40 billion.

Medicaid, a $200 billion program serving 40 million individuals and families, represents the second largest category of state spending. Last fiscal year, state spending for this program exceeded budgeted levels in 37 states. In 2002, Medicaid costs are projected to increase by double-digit percentages due, in large measure, to skyrocketing prescription drug costs. Some state officials have advised that they will delay planned Medicaid eligibility expansion or rate changes, alter copayments, or seek federal waiver authority to restructure benefit packages.

It is within this context that Congress is approaching major policy and financial actions that will have a significant impact on human service programs. …

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