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Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - 10:37am

Budget Cuts Hurting Safety Net Programs

Connecting people in need to social service programs like food stamps would get even tougher with budget proposals that passed through the House Tuesday.

The budget blueprint passed by House Appropriations calls for a cut of more than a hundred state workers who process applications for food stamps and Medicaid programs.

Clare Richie with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute says that’s a serious problem, given applications for assistance such as food stamps, was up 32-percent in the last year.

She says many more people who’ve never needed state help are now in-line for it...and are having trouble getting to it.

"Those are the ones who would really need the help to be able to access these services. So when you have a system that was probably already under-funded now taking further cuts, it makes it difficult for these families to access the services they’re eligible for.”

Cuts would come as workers are already overwhelmed in trying to process a spike in applications for food and medical help. Consumer advocate Linda Lowe says she feels for the workers trying to get through the rising tide of applications.

“We know they’re trying very hard to keep up, but they can’t. So what it means is families aren’t getting assistance with food that they need, and they’re not getting healthcare that they need.”

State agencies have already had a mix of budget cuts and furloughs the last couple of years.

Vicky Kimbrell is with Georgia Legal Services, a non-profit that helps low-income residents connect to needed social services. She says one case illustrates the trouble she’s had in trying to do her job in the face of state agency cutbacks:

"I sent in an Open Records Act request for supervisory personnel phone numbers so I could phone directly to the supervisory personnel and bypass the front desk to try and find out what’s happening in my clients’ cases."

Kimbrell says she would tell state lawmakers that targeting so-called ‘safety net’ programs are a “desperate and scary place to start to cut”.