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Proposed federal budget cuts will hurt Kandiyohi County

WILLMAR -- Proposed federal cuts of $50 billion to social service programs could take a toll on local programs and people.

"These cuts would have a devastating effect," said Larry Kleindl, Kandiyohi County Family Services director, during the Kandiyohi County Family Service meeting on Tuesday. "They would take a swipe at poor Americans."

Kleindl, who gave an update on the proposed budget cuts to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, said the proposal had passed the Senate but was delayed in the House. "These cuts can't go through," he said.

The Minnesota Social Service Association is urging people to voice opposition to the House measure. In a legislative update, the association said the proposal includes $9.5 billion in cuts to Medicaid over the next five years, with $7.4 billion hitting low-income Americans the hardest with increased co-payments and premiums.

Kleindl said if a family member uses those services, they will pay more. He said it could also affect people's decisions on when to go to the doctor and what medications to use, which could mean less preventative care for individuals.

The proposal also includes an $844 million cut to food stamps over five years. "That will have a daily impact to families who are struggling to get by," said Kleindl. People who use food stamps, including senior citizens and young families, do so "because they need it."

Child support enforcement would be cut by $4.9 billion over five years, which will give counties less money and fewer staff people to collect child support payments that parents are required to pay. Currently, Kandiyohi County collects $6 for every $1 it spends on collection services. Anything that hinders collecting child support payments will hurt children, said Kleindl.

Another part of the proposal includes a $425 million cut to supplemental security income over five years.

Kleindl told the commissioners that he will keep the proposed budget cuts on the radar screen "until we win this, or get beat up."

The County Commissioners also heard a report from Carmen Clementson, family services supervisor, on the adult mental health grant renewal agreement for 2006-07.

The report included information about partnerships the county has with Woodland Centers, which is a mental health center located in Willmar, and Rice Memorial Hospital, both of which provide adult mental health services. A strong network of local foster care facilities and supported employment services provided by West Central Industries were also cited as crucial components in the county.

Clementson listed accomplishments of the past and goals for the upcoming two years, including continuing to work with Rice Hospital in the development of a Community Behavioral Health Hospital and refining the court commitment process relating to Assertive Community Treatment of adults with mental illness.

Sandy Schlosser, a parent advocate for individuals with disabilities who attends most of the county family services meetings, praised Clementson and the county's Family Services Department for their work and inclusion of local consumers. "It's heartwarming," said Schlosser.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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