Human services were on most people’s minds Wednesday night during the second marathon public hearing on the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget plan.
A majority of the 50 or so speakers at the second of three hearings this week urged the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to restore funding to services for the county’s most vulnerable residents.
County Executive Ed Long’s $7 billion budget proposal includes an $8 million reserve to address cuts from sequestration and other federal reductions, but many human services officials say more is needed.
The county’s Human Services Council has recommended supervisors approve an additional $3.3 million in funding, $1.25 of which would be put in a fund used only for immediate services needs.
Many speakers during Wednesday’s hearing fully supported the council’s recommendations.
The council’s $3.3 million recommendation includes $900,000 to help fund employment services for homeless residents.
Oakton resident Marlena Mendez urged supervisors to fund the programs and provide others with the services she used to escape an abusive relationship and make it on her own.
After leaving a domestically violent environment, Mendez said she was able to enroll in Training Futures, a program that helped her prepare for a career. She has since graduated from Northern Virginia Community College and works full time.
“I was the first in my family to graduate from college,” she told the board. “I hope you will enable others to write their own success story, like me.”
Anne Andrews, a representative of the South County Task Force for Human Services, said revenues for human services were stretched to the limit. Federal and state funding was not as readily available, and a growing demand put extra strain on the system.
Andrews asked supervisors to consider a meals tax in order to produce more income.
“Eating out is optional and in this area, with many tourists, a lot of that tax income would come from diners in other jurisdictions,” she said. “Meals taxes in Alexandria, Arlington and the District do not keep from going to restaurants in those jurisdictions.”
Another resident made a heartfelt, emotional case for an increase in funding to human services programs. After her daughter attempted suicide last year, the resident was told she would face a 21-day waiting period for an initial evaluation for her daughter’s treatment.
“I had to stay at home for weeks guarding her, taking her to therapy sessions, and making sure she took her medications,” the resident said. In the end, her daughter ended having to go to Richmond for treatment, which was difficult to handle, she said.
She said that human services and nonprofits that can help young people deserved the funding increases schools were getting.
“Sometimes we tend to think that education exists in a vacuum,” she said. “But you will never succeed in providing a quality education system for all of our children if you do not address the funding needs on an equal scale.”
Mark Sites, chairman of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, asked supervisors for a $1.1 million increase in budget, so his agency could staff more positions and maintain service levels for people who need it.
CSB maintained a vacancy rate of about 140 positions for much of the year, but he said it’s no longer feasible.
“[It] has put considerable stress on our service system, on our employees, and – most importantly – on the people who depend on us for services," Sites said.