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Funding for Tenant Resource Center, Developmental Disabilities are Priorities for Citizens at Budget Hearing
Several hundred people crowded into the Mendota Room at the Alliant Energy Center to weigh in on the Dane County Department of Human Services 2014 budget proposal at a public hearing Tuesday.
Calling the $250.6 million budget proposal “a real challenge,” Human Services Director Lynn Green said the proposal continues to provide most services and anticipates changes required by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, all while dealing with dwindling revenue from state, federal and other sources.
“We are pretty well tapped out,” Green said. “We are all being challenged by increased needs. We were forced to make difficult decisions.”
Among those decisions was to maintain services for the homeless by cutting $95,000 allocated for the Housing Help Desk, operated under a contract with the Tenant Resource Center to assist people find and keep housing, avoid eviction and mediate disputes with landlords. Several people spoke against that cut.
“Our population is very vulnerable. We will be more vulnerable without the support of the TRC,” said Madison resident Jorge Carrera, speaking through a translator. He said his family once lived without electricity through no fault of their own, and was able to call the Housing Help Desk to resolve the situation with his landlord.. “Thanks to TRC we can live the dignified life we came for,” he said.
“This is a policy that may be well-intentioned, but ultimately short-sighted and self-defeating,” said TRC Board of Directors President Colin Gillis. “It treats the most visible symptom of our housing crisis – increasing homelessness – but does so in a manner that aggravates the structural problems that are causing it. These services prevent homelessness before it happens.”
Dane County Housing Authority Executive Director Rob Dick said his agency is not in a position to take up the slack if the Housing Help Desk is defunded.
“It was suggested at a recent Housing Issues Committee meeting that some of the services provided by the Housing Help Desk are duplicated by the DCHA and I’m here to clear that up,” he said. “That is incorrect. We do not have the resources to provide these services.”
Greta Hansen , executive director of the Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, agreed. “Our services work together with the Tenant Resource Center,” she said.
Another topic drawing many comments was services for people with developmental disabilities.
While many speakers advocated against cuts to services, Tom Navatne, the father of a 20-year-old student currently in a high school transition program, pushed for actually expanding services.
“As a taxpayer I’m willing to pay a few more dollars to provide services,” he said. “The purpose of taxes is to fund the public good. This is the public good.”
The Human Services Department budget represents about half of all County expenditures. A public hearing on the rest of the budget will take place at 6 pm on Wednesday, September 11, at the County Board Chambers in the City County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Drive in Madison.
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