Human Services Racing Towards a Post-Pandemic Funding Cliff

County issues are on the radar for new Washington County delegation including finding solutions for human services programs that have been pushed to the brink.

In a meeting hosted by the Washington delegation, community members and county officials were provided a platform to get the major issues on their minds out in front of elected officials heading to Annapolis this winter for the General Assembly Session.

Part of the discussion focused on the status of homeless populations in the county as the winter season sets in, bringing to light an important and potential breaking point for human services across the board. A report by Mark Sewell of the Homeless Coalition and the Washington County Community Action Council showed that homeless populations are in fact rising in the county while cold weather shelters are full and emergency rental assistance is running out.

Many human service programs were bolstered by emergency funding from the federal government as a result of the pandemic. Those resources came in after the dominos had already begun to fall, sparking a crisis level situation for vulnerable populations which rely heavily on county level services provided by health departments and human service teams. Many needs have been met in the short-term, in large part due with the nimble application of these funds by local governments managing a massive lift in conjunction with state level services.

With those funds drying up, assistance will be gravely needed to avoid the potential cliff that the financial shortages could create for a multitude of human services programs that have been called into great action during the COVID-19 pandemic for issues that remain a problem today. Even just in the wake of COVID-19, issues that disproportionately effect resource scarce populations have been compounded by resource depletion, record inflation, staff shortages, and, ultimately, the immense stress that comes with resource scarcity.

This has the potential to put county programs in a position where the need for resources remains elevated while the funding and human capital drops off drastically. All too often we see situations where the short-term response is not proportional to the long-term consequences, but it is encouraging to see local governments and actors raising these issues with their delegations ahead of the General Assembly. Stay tuned here for updates.