Human Services block grant legislation makes a stir in committee

Controversial legislation that could threaten funding for some human services programs was heard this week in the Human Services Reform Committee. The bill would combine state money provided to counties and tribal governments for programs like child protection, mental health services, and services to help people with disabilities live independently into one block grant of funding.

Supporters of the bill want to provide counties with more flexibility to spend resources in a way that is most helpful to them. Under a block grant, funding for some programs could be cut from current levels while others could receive additional funds.

Opponents of the bill shared concerns about whether the proposal would actually provide the level of flexibility promised and suggested that there are many unanswered questions. The bill currently funds all of the programs at the amount they received in the previous year, so it is not clear if some of the vital human services programs included in the grant will have their funding cut or whether any of the federal money going to these programs could be put in jeopardy.

The committee did not end up holding a vote and instead laid the bill on the table. The legislation could be brought before the committee again at a later date. (SF 794)