AP: Pa. budget stalemate cost approaches critical mass

The collapse of a second agreement between Gov. Tom Wolf and top lawmakers threatens to extend the state government budget stalemate deeper into December, its sixth month. Here is the impact to date:

Layoffs: In October, a United Way of Pennsylvania survey of 282 organizations reported almost 700 employees had been furloughed, seen hours reduced or worked without pay. More than 500 others lost employee benefits, the United Way said. This week, the Easter Seals chapter for central and western Pennsylvania laid off 22 people and the rest of the staff – some 300 people – will take salary reductions of up to 30 percent.

School district borrowing: School district borrowing has hit $900 million, according to state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. Philadelphia alone has borrowed $525 million, while other major districts taking out loans include Allentown, Erie and Scranton.

Pre-kindergarten programs: Today, a Pittsburgh early childhood center that educates 100 children under Pennsylvania’s state-subsidized pre-kindergarten program will close its doors, according to the Pre-K for PA coalition. Through the start of December, 15 had closed, according to the state Department of Education, affecting 538 children from low-income families enrolled in the programs.

Domestic violence shelters: Many shelters for victims of domestic violence have closed to new arrivals after hitting capacity or laying off staff to save money, according to Peg Dierkers of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. State assistance to help domestic violence victims afford a new place to live is cut off, making it harder for shelters to open beds, Dierkers says.

Schools might close: With hopes fading for a budget resolution this week, talk among some school boards is turning again to closing down – several districts briefly considered it in September or October – as they face the prospect of taking out new loans to stay open. Some school boards, including Greenville’s and Burgettstown Area in western Pennsylvania, are considering keeping schools closed after the holidays.

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