The Ottumwa Courier

Wapello County

March 22, 2013

Shelters ask for 5 percent increase in state funding

AGENCY — The walls seem to be closing in on juvenile shelters across the state as bed after bed is taken away due to a lack of funding.

Tracey Boxx-Vass, executive director of American Home Finding Association, as well as Judy Davidson, director of the Agency Shelter, traveled to the Iowa House earlier this month to speak with state Rep. Mary Gaskill, D-Ottumwa, about increasing state funding for shelter care.

They requested a 5 percent increase in statewide emergency juvenile shelter funding.

“There’s no fluff in that,” Boxx-Vass said. “It’s a survival request. This doesn’t in any way, shape or form make us whole.”

The governor’s fiscal year 2014 budget cut $458,000 from shelters, she said, reducing the number of shelter beds statewide by 14 to 17.

The Iowa Senate has restored shelter funding in its budget, though the Iowa House’s budget made cuts even more severe than were originally proposed in the governor’s budget.

“Child welfare has been sustaining cut after cut after cut,” Boxx-Vass said. “At this point, we can’t sustain any further cuts. An increase is needed just to keep in business.”

Since 2007, 95 beds have been cut statewide, according to the Coalition for Family & Children’s Services in Iowa, which has been leading the charge alongside the Iowa Department of Human Services to “right-size” the shelter bed system in the state.

Right now, the Agency Shelter has 15 beds, though it is only contracted for 10 and only gets paid for 10. The shelter also has three unallocated beds.

“We get paid for the 10 no matter what,” Davidson said. “But we have to get permission to use the three beds before we get paid.”

A 5 percent increase would not “by any means cover our costs,” Boxx-Vass said, but it would keep the shelter from going out of business.

The pair have discussed the issue with area legislators, including Gaskill, as well as state Reps. Curt Hanson, D-Fairfield, and Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant.

Gaskill said she empathizes with the shelters.

“They haven’t had an increase for quite awhile and I think it’s time that they have one, and I’m going to do all that I can to see if we can make that happen,” she said. “It’s pretty tough out there for nonprofits trying to provide services for people.”

She said when the Democratic-controlled Senate’s version comes to the Republican-controlled House, “more than likely the House will substitute their bill for the Senate bill.”

“So it’ll probably go to a conference committee or just sit there, and nobody will do anything because in that budget there is also Medicaid expansion money, so there’s a lot of controversy about that bill,” Gaskill said.

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