With no state budget, HRA and programs wait and worry

Published on Saturday, 1 July 2017 20:57
Written by Skyler Frazer

Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN - The failure of the General Assembly to adopt a state budget for the new fiscal year has created uncertainty statewide.

Municipalities are unsure of the relevance of the budgets their officials tentatively passed in June, social services “safety net” programs look to be in jeopardy, and nonprofit organizations are still waiting to see if they will receive any funding at all this fiscal year.

“Based on the letters I’m receiving, the funders that we deal with - the Department of Labor, the Department of Social Services, etcetera - are being told there is no money for them after July 1,” said Rocco Tricarico, executive director of the Human Resources Agency of New Britain.

Tricario said that the lack of a state budget leaves many of the HRA’s programs in flux, possibly facing the reality of having to turn clients away from services they rely on.

“Do we have to start laying staff off who are responsible for those programs because we don’t have money to pay them?” Tricarico asked. “It’s clearly going to have an impact on staffing levels, clearly going to have an impact on our ability to meet the needs of the community, especially young people.”

The uncertainty surrounding the state’s budget will immediately have an impact on the HRA, as the organization’s Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program most likely will not be happening this summer. Tricarico said officials from Capital Workforce Partners, the agency that runs the program in New Britain through funding from the State Department of Labor, contacted him in June saying there would be no program this year if a state budget wasn’t passed by July 1.

“That means that many young people from this community, who are in desperate need of the income and work experience, won’t have that opportunity this summer,” Tricarico said.

Many people rely on this program to save up money for the future or to help their families weekly.

“Whatever bit of money they’re earning, often goes back into their family budget to pay for food or utilities,” said Caren Dickman, communications and grant development specialist for the HRA.

Tricarico shared his colleague’s sentiment.

“These are working class families that every dollar matters,” Tricarico said.

State legislators had a chance to save this program. Gov. Dannel Malloy released a “Resource Allocation Plan” earlier this week for operating the government without a formal budget. This plan would drastically cut funding to many programs and services throughout the state, including eliminating funding for summer youth jobs programs. Malloy said he would implement the plan by executive order if no budget were adopted.

He also released a proposed “mini-budget” that would have operated state government until Oct. 1. This plan contained cuts for many programs and services, but partially funded summer youth jobs programs at $3.5 million.

With no vote on the “mini-budget,” Malloy signed the Resource Allocation Plan executive order Friday afternoon.

Leticial Mangual, director of the HRA’s Youth Services Center, said the program would hypothetically begin July 17 - if it were funded.

“We don’t have a final decision yet, but it doesn’t look good,” Mangual said of the potential for the program this year.

Tricarico said that the HRA isn’t the only organization that will feel the impact of a lack of a state budget and potential cuts to funding.

“We’re not the only provider that’s seeing these cuts. These cuts are going to be across the board to anyone who does social service, mental health, employment training. … It’s going to be across the board. You’re going to see these safety nets wiped out,” Tricarico said.

Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at sfrazer@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News, New Britain on Saturday, 1 July 2017 20:57. Updated: Saturday, 1 July 2017 20:59.