HHS reverses itself on Year 2000 funds: homeless advocates win

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 13 Jun 1998 19:23:57 -0700 (PDT)


"Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on
Homelessness and Poverty http://www.nlchp.org/ , [had] said her
organization and others were prepared to challenge the decision in court if
it were not reversed." -- from article below

http://washingtonpost.com:80/wp-srv/WPlate/1998-06/13/050l-061398-idx.html


  HHS REVERSES ITSELF ON YEAR 2000 FUNDS

  By Barbara Vobejda
  Washington Post Staff Writer
  Saturday, June 13, 1998; Page A03


Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala yesterday reversed a
controversial decision made by her agency last week that would have shifted
funds away from homeless teens to help fix a year 2000 computer glitch.

The announcement came after several days of protest from lawmakers and
advocates for the poor, who had accused the agency of putting computers
ahead of the needs of homeless young people.

"This is still a difficult decision," said HHS spokesman Michael Kharfen.
But given the concerns expressed by Congress, he said, the agency would
instead make smaller, across-the-board cuts from several programs.

HHS must come up with $47 million this fiscal year to help reprogram its
computers to repair problems that could cause them to shut down or
malfunction in 2000. Shalala notified Congress last week that $7 million of
that would come from a program designed to help community groups find young
people who are living on the streets and direct them to shelters, medical
care and other services.

Another $3.5 million was to be transferred from community economic
development grants used by local governments to create jobs and training
for low-income people.

Kharfen said the two programs would still be cut slightly along with
several others, including those for Head Start, child abuse prevention and
Native American programs. Each would be cut by just more than one-tenth of
1 percent. Similar cuts were ordered at the National Institutes of Health
and other HHS departments.

Agency officials had defended the original decision, saying it would merely
delay funding for those programs. But that did not satisfy advocacy groups
and members of Congress, including 34 members who signed a letter to
Shalala asking her to reconsider.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations
subcommittee that oversees HHS funding, said the agency "deserves credit
for this midcourse correction. . . . Small programs that help the most
vulnerable should not be singled out for dramatic cuts."

Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on
Homelessness and Poverty, said her organization and others were prepared to
challenge the decision in court if it were not reversed.

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