Budget cuts would impact local services

ELKINS – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s proposed state budget would cut funding to several child-oriented services in Randolph County, including the Randolph County Family Resource Network and Women’s Aid in Crisis.

Rebecca Vance, director of the Randolph County Family Resource Network, said that her organization is facing deep cuts. She said the budget is proposing to cut family support services, which she says are desperately needed within the state.

“We and the programs we work with are receiving cuts,” Vance said. “The fear is that many organizations will not be able to work in the same capacity they have been.”

The proposed budget calls for cuts in funding issued by the Children’s Trust Fund, including a 26.7 percent cut in funding to child abuse prevention services; a 25 percent cut to in-home family education; an 8.5 percent cut to Family Resource Networks; a 14.3 percent cut to grants for licensed domestic violence programs and statewide prevention; and a 7.4 percent cut to the Domestic Violence Legal Services Fund and Child Advocacy Centers.

Meanwhile, funding for social services would increase by 16.3 percent overall, according to the proposed budget.

Vance said that the Randolph County FRN currently operates with a budget of about $38,000 per year, which includes employee pay, substance abuse prevention, assistance with child abuse prevention, tobacco prevention, resources and referrals, office supplies and rent.

“The Family Resource Networks provide the glue that keeps community groups, families, congregations, businesses and service agencies together,” Vance said. “We promote coordination of services and promote opportunities for families to impact decisions that affect them. At the current budget… it pushes each FRN to complete all that is required of them from not only state but community partners, residents, etc.”

Vance said that budget cuts are something she and the FRN have experienced before.

“Last year we took a cut and we were able to find a way to make things work,”she said. “It really makes you get creative. We’ve got to really look at what we do and find money in a new way, be it fundraisers, grants, etc.”

Marcie Drake, executive director of Women’s Aid in Crisis in Elkins, said the cuts would definitely affect the services WAIC provides to six counties in the area.

“We are dealing with funding cuts reaching nearly $400,000 across the state,” Drake said. “Our goal this year was to lobby for more funding. Now, our goal is just to get back to even.”

WAIC would face a 14.3 percent cut in funding under the proposed budget.

Drake said there are 14 programs for domestic violence and nine programs for rape crisis throughout the state. The proposed cuts are going to impact every county and all those services in the state, according to Drake.

“These are lifesaving services – people are alive today because of these services in West Virginia,” Drake said. “West Virginia ranks high in the number of domestic homicides of women and men. One third of homicides are domestic-related. These cuts may mean that there may be services cut from a county. This could create an environment where victims of domestic violence could fall through the cracks.”

Drake said that WAIC is taking precautions to protect against the cuts.

“We are not going to close our doors,” she said. “We could cut back services to the six counties we serve but we don’t ever stop serving. We will continue to work around the clock, even though there may be some services that are cut.”

Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, agreed that the cuts in services could be detrimental to those residents who most need them.

“I’m against cutting funding for programs for people who are unable to care for or protect themselves,” she told The Inter-Mountain. “The FRN and organizations like it protect children and families and combat drug abuse.

“We can’t take money from programs trying to strengthen our children and our workforce. Safety for those who can’t help themselves should be our number one priority.”

The budget is set to be voted on in March at the end of the legislative session.