The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

State News

March 1, 2013

Indiana agencies await news of potential cuts

INDIANAPOLIS — Many Indiana state agencies remain in the dark about what will happen to their funding if $85 billion in automatic budget cuts take effect Friday.

Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development yesterday reversed its decision to cut off federally extended unemployment benefits after hearing from the federal government, but other state agencies are still waiting for guidance. Some say they’re still unsure of how soon and how much funding would be reduced and how they would handle the cuts.

Earlier this week, the state Workforce Development department announced a temporary suspension of extended unemployment benefits that go to those out of work for more than 26 weeks.

Joe Frank, a spokesman for the department, said the agency had received no directions from the government and wanted to avoid inadvertently paying too much and having to collect the money back from beneficiaries later.

That changed yesterday when the U.S. Department of Labor gave the state department a guarantee that the cuts would not go into effect immediately.

Indiana officials will speak to the Labor Department on Friday about how to move forward.

“That’s the first guidance they’ve given us whatsoever, which is kind of troubling,” Frank said. “This (sequester) has been around for over a year now, and it took until yesterday to get further guidance from them.”

Other state agencies are still in the dark. The White House released a document Sunday detailing how the cuts, known as the “sequester,” would affect each state, but some agencies still aren’t sure how the cuts would be implemented specifically.

Jeffery Blake, executive director of the Covered Bridge Special Education District in Terre Haute, said he’s waiting for direction from the state and federal government. The cooperative sends specialized staff to local schools.

The White House report says Indiana will lose $12.4 million in funding for about 150 teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities. Some of Blake’s employees are paid for by federal grants, he said.

“It’s confusing. We don’t know what to look for,” he said. “Trying to keep everybody calm is another part because they keep seeing it on TV. It’s hard to do any long-range planning when you don’t know what kind of funding you’re going to have.”

Early childhood education programs, the military, domestic violence shelters and meal programs for the elderly also would see reduced funding if the cuts are enacted. Some leaders of those programs also say they’re not certain how much money they’ll lose and how that will affect their operations.

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