Last Tuesday, approximately 80 people attended the second meeting of the Human Services Advocacy Network (HSAN) in 2019. The meeting was held at Eliza Bryant Village, and featured a panel discussion comprised of Cuyahoga County officials who discussed the upcoming 2020-2021 county budget. Moderated by the President and Executive Director of The Center for Community Solutions, John Corlett, the panel consisted of Cuyahoga County Councilman Dale Miller, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell, Director of the Cuyahoga County Office of Budget and Management Maggie Keenan and the Cuyahoga County Director of Health and Human Services (HHS), Walter Parfejewiec. The panel discussed previous county budgets, the most recent finalized state budget, significant issues that will impact the final outcome of the upcoming budget and more.#CuyahogaCounty’s 2020-2021 budget is coming soon. What insights did members of @CuyahogaCounty government share? Find out here Click To Tweet
After words of welcome from the Chief Operating Officer of Eliza Bryant, Deborah Enty, I opened the formal program with a short, which provided an overview of the county budget process, as well as some of the funding forecasts for the HHS levy fund, a critical component of financial support for various HHS agencies and organizations throughout the county. The event also coincided with the release of the 2020-21 county budget preview.
It is easier to understand ‘the ask,’ if there is a measurable difference in the impact on the community.
Each of the panelists brought a different perspective to the questions Corlett posed. Due to the high percentage of individuals in the audience who are involved in nonprofits that may be connected to the county, one of the questions Corlett asked centered on what agencies can do to be more effective in advocating for county programs. Parfejewiec encouraged attendees to provide information to the county executive and county council on exactly how their programs make a difference in the community. He went on to explain that it is easier to understand ‘the ask,’ if there is a measurable difference in the impact on the community. He also told attendees to highlight what an increase in funding would mean to the overall impact of the program. Keenan also chimed in by saying, “if you need a million dollars, ask for a million dollars.” She went on to explain that it does not reflect favorably when organizations ask for less money up front, then request increases later.
“If you need a million dollars, ask for a million dollars.”
In response to a question by Corlett about a recent study commissioned by the Greater Cleveland Partnership, which examined individual tax rates in Cuyahoga County, Conwell noted that she disagreed with the assessment. Given the community has needs and that budgets naturally go up over time, and that the county needs to respond to the needs in the community. Fortunately, county residents have historically been supportive of the funding of these programs. Conwell, who chairs the Health, Human Services and Aging (HHSA) committee, noted that the population is aging and the county must respond to the increasing needs in the community both now and in the future.
Keenan also brought up the issue of the number of children in protective custody, and how that has significantly affected the county. She said the number of children in county custody has increased almost every week, for the last two years. The number of children in county custody at the time of the panel numbered more than 2,800.
The number of children in county custody at the time of the panel numbered more than 2,800
The panel was asked by a member of the audience what the county expects to do specifically around older adults. Miller, who chairs the finance committee, pointed out that there are programs in place to protect seniors, such as adult protective services, which are mandated by law. Miller said that he believes that the likely only way to adequately meet the needs of the aging population would be an increase in the Health and Human Services levy.
Feedback from event attendees was very positive, as many said that they learned something new, whether they were brand new to the county budget process, or they were someone who has decades of experience. Community Solutions will continue to inform the community at each step of the county budget process.
Community Solutions will continue to inform the community at each step of the county budget process
The Human Services Advocacy Network will continue with the next meeting on September 16, as we welcome State Representative Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) and State Representative Phil Robinson (D-Solon), to discuss their experiences in the most recent state budget. We hope to see you there!