How budget cuts could affect Vermont's most vulnerable - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How budget cuts could affect Vermont's most vulnerable

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Vermont's agency heads are looking for millions in potential cuts, with revised budgets due on Governor Peter Shumlin's, D-Vermont, desk Friday.

Less than anticipated growth has Shumlin demanding 4 percent reductions even at the Department for Children and Families which is already under fire for failing to protect children.

The Agency of Human Services oversees corrections, benefits programs and protection services for the elderly and children.

Vermont Human Services Secretary Doug Racine, says cuts will sting but must be found.

Human Services is the largest agency in all of state government taking care of the most vulnerable Vermonters.

But cuts are coming just as the DCF is facing multiple state investigations and a public confidence crisis.

The agency receives $600 in state money and 42 percent of that cash is on the Governor's chopping block.

"We're looking at everything that we do in the agency and looking for places where we might have some room to cut," said Racine.

Racine says Shumlin asked the agency to identify $25 million in possible cuts out of the $600 million. The Governor wants to avoid layoffs or pension-dipping, so $132 million in salary and benefits is likely safe and Corrections costs are largely locked-in.

The agency has 250 unfilled vacancies that could remain empty, creating savings, but the original budget already anticipated incomplete staffing.

Hires will still be forthcoming for the newly-created positions designed to address child protection issues in the wake of high profile child deaths.

"Clearly we want to protect the safety and health of individuals and that's where we're going to be looking to not make cuts. We'll have to go to other areas," said Racine.

Racine says he hopes to avoid cuts in welfare benefits, but funding is only safe when it's completely federal.

"3SquaresVT is safe, but ReachUp, LIHEAP, others do have state dollars and we have to look at all of that. Again, nothing is off the table right now," said Racine.

Each cut also ripples through the budget. Federal dollars come with strings, like matching funds.

"Every time we cut a state dollar, we're likely to lose federal money at the same time," said Racine.

While the Governor set a target of $25 million for the agency, $13 million would be proportionate to how much the agency receives from the $600 million General Fund.

The cuts are likely to be closer to that figure than the target.

Related Stories:

Shumlin orders spending cuts as Vt. sees revenue forecast downgrade


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