The federal government has cut almost $300,000 in funds for emergency assistance program operated in three Maryland areas to provide food and shelter for needy persons.
The Baltimore program lost $150,000 in funds, according to Kalman R. Hettleman, the director of the Baltimore Department of Social Services, which administers the program. In Montgomery County, a similar but unrelated program lost up to $45,000 and a Prince George's County program lost nearly $100,000.
The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) withdrew the funds, which matched state funds for the programs, because the programs were not statewide, according to Hettleman.
"Technically HEW is correct," said Hettleman, "but that (regulation) could be interpreted to mean going through the state, or it could mean open to different municipalities."
Hettleman said the program was "designed to fill the gaps that emergency assistance funding doesn't." The state and locally funded emergency assistance program is administered statewide to provide grants for people in certain circumstances of hardship, Hettleman said.
HEW. which had been funding the emergency services program for several years according to Hettleman, cut off money July 1. Hettleman said the Department of Social Services decided they had no solid grounds for appeal. Since then, a whittled-down version of the program has been operating only on state funds that have been increased since the federal cut.
"This is an old story," said Williams Davidson, director of the Prince George's Department of Social Services. "This happened to us last February or March."
Davidson said that the Prince George's program - called the Emergency Housing Service - lost $96,000 in federal funds that were channeled through the state. The program now operates on $100,000 from Prince George's County - about half the original funding.
Davidson said that the county had told him that the program could only help needy persons who were residents of the county.
"That was a stupid idea," he said. "There wouldn't have been more than two or three cases of non-residents asking for money anyway."
Davidson said the residence requirement made his agency noncompliant with HEW guidelines. He added that he had no control over whether or not the other jurisdictions in the area administered similar programs which would then make the assistance program truly statewide.
"Why penalize us for something Wicomico or Garrett Counties didn't do?" Davidson asked.
Harriet Herman, the director of the Montgomery County Department of Social Services, said her program - called the Emergency Assistance to Families With Children - lost at least part of the $44,880 in federal funds for the fiscal year that was halfway over last January when HEW cut their funding.
The program now operates on $84,000 from Montgomery County, according to Herman. It lost its federal funding in March, but the cut was retroactive to January.
"I think the issue is coming up again now, because in Baltimore, groups are now beginning to actually see some of the people from the program moving out of the communities because of the funding cut," she said.
Herman said an appeal for the federal funds would not work.
"The state misinterpreted the feds' definition of statewide, and the state told us they had no money," she said.