HAZARD — The dirtiest four-letter word an American could utter just a few months ago was actually a nine-letter word that merely meant cutting government spending. However, since the end of March, many seem to have forgotten about the impending doom felt after the federal sequester cuts were announced.
This month, the LKLP Community Action Council, a non-profit organization serving Leslie, Knott, Letcher, and Perry counties that seeks to better the community and the poor through community action, was reminded just how dirty that nine-letter word could be after being forced to cut funding to multiple programs in the area.
Ricky Baker, executive director of the council, said the board was forced to make some difficult decisions at its last board meeting regarding programs aimed at helping those most in need in the area.
“Anytime there’s a cut, you know, it’s going to be tough on the agency as far as trying to maintain the staff that you have, and you do sometimes have to cut back on the clients you serve because you can’t take those kinds of cuts without something hurting,” Baker said.
The Head Start program, a federal program that provides education, health, and nutrition services to low-income families, which LKLP oversees, will have its federal funding cut by over $200,000 this coming fiscal year.
“We actually have letters we’re preparing to send out to participating parents with what effects it’s going to have on them,” Baker said.
LKLP also provides public transportation to those who qualify financially in the area and contracts transportation services out to other regions in the state including Bowling Green and Richmond.
Perry County Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble, a member of the LKLP board, said the board was facing possible termination of those services provided outside of the region because of losses of large amounts of money to that part of the transportation program.
“We don’t need to be doing that. If we’re losing money we don’t need to be doing that,” Noble said
The board voted earlier this month to terminate those contracts outside of the region if there was no way to get back that lost money. Last week, Baker said state legislators called to let the board know that funds had been found to assist the contracted transportation program.
“We were going to have to terminate those if the state did not provide additional funding, but they actually decided to provide more funding,” Baker said.
Noble said there is a reason the state would not let LKLP terminate those transportation contracts.
“They can’t get anyone else to do it,” he said. “The good part about that, they’ve got that call center, and the call center’s here in Hazard and it creates jobs. If we cancel all those contracts we’re going to lose those jobs and jobs is what we need right now.”
Another program being hit hard by budget cuts is the home care program. The Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD) contracts this service out to LKLP, meaning LKLP is given funds by KRADD to perform the services for the program, which mainly include housekeeping, grocery shopping, and any other things participants, who are 60 years old or older, need to have done to remain in unassisted living. However, at last month’s board meeting, LKLP was forced to terminate that contract due to a contract disagreement.
“They (LKLP) sent us a proposal for a renewal to do the services with the dollar amount that they wanted per unit. That dollar amount was unacceptable, it was too high; we could not negotiate that, so they pulled their offer,” Peggy Roll, human services director for KRADD, said.
Baker said LKLP had lost around $30,000 this year because of the home care program, so was forced to ask for more in their new bid for next year.
Roll said with no other offers on the table, and LKLP’s contract ending on June 30, the agency had no choice but to apply for a waiver for the program.
“We really had no way of doing it any other way because we only got the one response. With the waiver we can go ahead and bring those services in house,” she said.
Although it is unclear exactly how much the waiver will be for, Roll said there was virtually no job loss as those aids who were working with LKLP with the home care program simply applied to KRADD for their same positions.
“Nobody’s going to lose services, in many cases they won’t even notice a change,” Roll added. “We want to ensure that people continue to receive care.”
Roll said the waiver can be renewed every year, although with budget cuts running rampant it is hard to estimate exactly how much money the program will be able to be afforded by the state.
“It’s not like Medicaid where every time you add a client you’re able to bill those services. There’s one pot of money and you can only serve the number of people that pot of money can do. That money has been cut eight times in the last 13 years,” she said.