Hundreds of elderly and mentally and physically challenged people will soon be without services they now receive from Northampton County, and as many as five county employees will be getting pink slips.
The reason, said county director of human services Ross Marcus: cuts in the new budget signed by Governor Tom Corbett on July 1.
Marcus delivered the news late Thursday afternoon to county council's human services committee.
Marcus appeared especially upset about the end of a program that helps
160 elderly stay in home settings, even though they are eligible for admission to a nursing home. That Area Agency on Aging program likely come to an end on Aug. 31, he said. "This is the one that concerns me most. This is just mean-spirited on the part of the state. ... They went after the frailest of the frail."
Marcus said to keep the program going in 2013 he would have to ask the county for a $220,000 subsidy -- $170,000 more than this year -- because of the new state reimbursement rates, which he called "just ridiculous."
Explaining the program's benefits, Marcus said: "It's cheaper for people to stay in their own homes, and it's hard for families to put mom or dad in a nursing homes."
Marcus said 476 mentally challenged people and about 60 physically challenged people will be without developmental programs by Sept. 30.
He said it would take a $170,000 subsidy from the county to keep those programs intact next year.
"The levels of [county] subsidies are too high for both programs, and it's pretty clear that this is not a one- or two-year thing," Marcus told the committee. "This [Corbett] administration is determined to reduce the size of government, and we're going to bear the brunt of it."
Marcus said he was given $285,200 in this year's county budget to help those affected by the cuts.
He said he hopes two private groups in the Lehigh Valley and a quasi- governmental group that covers Carbon, Pike and Monroe counties might be able to help provide the developmental programs for the mentally and physically challenged.
As for the elderly, Marcus said, "I don't know who's going to be picking up the services for these aging consumers."
The program cuts will result in the elimination of 24 positions -- 20 caseworkers and four managers, said Marcus. However, six caseworker positions are already vacant, and three management slots are expected to be vacant by the time the programs end.
Marcus said that nine of the 14 caseworkers whose jobs are being eliminated will be moved into other areas where vacancies already exist. So at the moment, five workers would have to be given pink slips. However, Marcus said he hopes to get the number down even further before the programs come to an end.
The program cuts and job losses surfaced at Thursday night's county council meeting, before a vote to contribute $5,000 toward a baseball field being built at the Chrin Center in Palmer Township by the Miracle League of Northampton County.
A Miracle League board member gave an emotional presentation to council about the $750,000 project for disabled children, and earlier, County Executive John Stoffa urged council to support the grant.
But before the vote, council member Tom Dietrich, who is chairman of the human services committee, said that it did not seem appropriate to be giving away money on the day it was announced that programs for the elderly and disabled were cut and that some county workers were losing their jobs.
He also objected, as he has in the past, to honoring individual requests for money when council has a policy to consider all such requests during budget deliberations.
By voting on individual requests, "there will be a parade of people in here with good ideas," he said. "Where does it stop?"
Council approved the Miracle League contribution 5-2, with Dietrich and Barbara Thierry, who was clearly conflicted about her vote, dissenting.