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Dozens of groups meet to discuss Nevada state budget, response

By ThisIsReno

PLAN NEWS RELEASE

Dozens of Nevada’s nonprofit groups, labor unions, service providers and others met Monday in Las Vegas and Reno to consider the looming threat of deep cuts to the state budget — cuts which threaten to eliminate or dramatically reduce health care, education, and human services.

Middle-class families, seniors, people with disabilities and the working poor will be especially affected by service cuts, but everyone will feel the impact, representatives learned at the Monday meeting.

At a combined meeting of service providers and nonprofit groups both in northern and southern Nevada, participants discussed how the loss of federal funds for family services and health care, tobacco settlement money, and Nevada’s deteriorating economic situation and subsequent drop in state general fund revenue leaves a $3 billion-hole in the coming biennial budget. Last week the Gibbons administration released a partial list of programs to be cut or eliminated in what would be the fifth round of cuts since the economic downturn began in 2007.

Nonprofit groups that advocate for seniors, neglected children, the working poor, people with disabilities and others; labor unions; local and state government agencies; and communities of faith have responded in an effort to maintain essential human and health services.

More than 150 representatives of social service groups, government agencies, labor unions and health care providers attended the meeting hosted by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), Reno’s Human Services Network and the Access to Health Care Network.

Programs proposed for complete elimination include the state’s problem gambling program, tobacco cessation grants, property tax assistance for seniors, hearing and dental assistance for adults, adult home health care and rehabilitation services, and services providing prosthetics and occupational, speech and physical therapy for adults and personal care services for people with disabilities. Poison control and mobile mammogram programs would be eliminated, as would cash assistance to poor two-parent households, mental health triage, senior outreach, and rehabilitation services.

Nearly every health care and human services program would see deep cuts. Mental health services, child care assistance and payments to grandparents who take in abandoned grandchildren would be particularly hard hit. Similar cuts would hit K-12 and higher education and even public safety under the budget items already proposed.

The proposed cuts to agency budgets would trim only $500 million to $600 million from the state’s $3 billion shortfall. The Nevada Legislature will consider the budget at the upcoming six-month session that begins early in 2011.

Cuts to state health and human service spending in many cases would mean loss of matching federal funds, with an expected loss of three to five times for every dollar lost to Nevada’s economy.

Jan Gilbert, Northern Nevada coordinator and lobbyist for PLAN during the every-other-year legislative session, said that while cuts will be made and people will feel the impact, there is still an opportunity to minimize the trauma of losing entire programs and drastically reducing others.

“The incoming Governor and the Legislature will have a very difficult time of balancing the needs of Nevadans with the available funding,” she said. “Cuts will be necessary, as heartbreaking as they may be. But we can keep the damage to a minimum by finding ways to increase state and local revenues among some of the still highly profitable industries and businesses in Nevada.

“We’re all being asked to help out in this difficult period,” she said. “Now is the time for those who have not contributed significantly to step up to the plate.”

Others working to provide services to the state’s most vulnerable populations echoed Gilbert.

“We are facing a very serious situation,” said Christy McGill, director of the Healthy Communities Coalition of Nevada’s Lyon and Storey counties. “Working together with citizens, providers and government is the only way we can ease the consequences of these reductions in essential services to our communities.”

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