Social service providers cheer state budget

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget might not have won him points in polls, but it did get administration officials several rounds of applause and more than a few “thank yous” from nonprofit social service providers and their clients Wednesday morning. They praised the administration and legislative leaders for protecting the safety net.

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes thanked the crowd for the warm reception, noting that he hadn’t had one like it in “forever.”

The Connecticut Community Providers Association scheduled the event at the state Capitol before it was clear what the budget would bring. Nonprofit providers had feared the massive budget deficit would lead to cuts to their programs. Instead, the budget maintains level funding. Several providers said handling rising gas prices and other increasing costs with no raise in state funding for the past three years has been a challenge, but they said they’re also relieved it wasn’t worse.

“The system is still on shaky ground, but we’re still better off than we could have been,” said Paul Acker, coordinator of Common Ground and one of several providers and clients featured in a video campaign on the importance of social service programs.

Barnes said he was pleased the budget had left the safety net intact.

“I really hope that we’re able to get past this difficult period and we’re able to rebuild the state’s longstanding commitment to social services,” he added.

Of course, the final piece of the budget–state employee union approval for a $1.6 billion concession plan–is still not done. Asked about the possibility of an alternate budget if the unions don’t approve the concession deal, Terry Edelstein, the community provider association’s President and CEO said, “I hold my breath.”