Nov. 11, 2015
Dear Pennsylvania Community Foundation and United Way Agency Leader,
As our state’s budget stalemate now drags into its fifth month, we are alarmed by the mounting human toll being exacted through disruption of vital services. Every day in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, there are new stories of cash-strapped nonprofits forced to pull back from their missions and from the people who need them most.
While we are heartened that that latest news reports indicate there may be progress toward an agreement, we want to be sure that the negotiations deliver results as quickly as possible, and that state officials act on reforms to the budget process. To these ends, we are asking for your signed-on support so that we can be in a strong position to act.
The cutoff of nearly $765 million in county-managed human services funds has forced hundreds of neighborhood-based agencies to take out loans and lay off staff members. And many of these organizations still have not recovered from the significant cuts made amid the state’s response to the Great Recession.
If you are like us, you are angered by a dysfunctional budget process in which the first casualties of a standoff are organizations delivering critically important services to those who are least able to protect themselves against the political clashing in the state capital. We believe you share the sense of special responsibility we have as community foundation and United Way leaders to look beyond the current crisis and advocate for long-term reforms.
We invite you to join with us in a statewide coalition to demand that the broken budgeting process be repaired so that human services nonprofits are no longer pawns in future ideological battles.
The campaign we are proposing is completely non-partisan. It will be directed to Gov. Tom Wolf and Legislative leaders of both political parties.
For the reform advocacy effort, we are proposing that the coalition issue an open letter – publicized through mainstream news and social media platforms – calling for permanent institutional reforms. These include, in the event of a future budget stall, that essential human services continue to be funded, and that legislators, the governor, the cabinet and their appointed staffs go without pay until an agreement is enacted.
On a parallel track, we are producing compelling stories to demonstrate the need for a budget agreement this year that fully funds human services. These will document the damage to individuals and organizations caused by the delayed funding. We will be asking you to tap into your individual networks to provide source material for 30- to 60-second videos, which will be disseminated through traditional and social media channels.
We urge you to join with us in taking a stand.
Both of us were called to leadership positions in organized philanthropy and public social service because we are committed to promoting the values our sectors represent. But it’s becoming clearer to us with each passing week that a budgeting process that takes advantage of those least able to defend themselves conflicts with those values.
We believe you share our sense of public responsibility to lead on this issue, and we invite you to go to the online registration page we have set up for this effort by clicking here or visiting http://www.papeoplecount.org/join-the-coalition.html. Given the stepped-up pace of negotiations in the state capital, we would appreciate your response by Friday, November 13, 2015.
We welcome you to contact us by phone or email with any questions or comments. Each day the budget impasse continues is another day of crisis for the dedicated nonprofits that deliver vital human services, so we appreciate you responding as soon as possible.