There is gloom and there are tears in the halls of the many non-profit groups that we have taken for granted for so long.
"This is making me nauseous," says Carolyn Wells-Peppersack, a counselor at the Sexual Assault-Spouse Abuse Resource Center.
"We're gonna salvage what we can," says Dave Creed, a counselor and director at the Mann House, which runs halfway homes for recovering alcoholics and drug users.
The gloom and the tears are the result of the message our governor delivered last week: There is no money left, and the budget cuts must, finally, come.
By now we have all heard the news that hundreds of state workers stand to lose their jobs. Harford County government will be hit to the tune of $4 million asa result of the governor's actions. The county executive has said Harford can absorb the shock without layoffs of its own, in part because it has been building a reserve fund so it can get a low interest rates when it borrows money in the bond market this fall.
But that does not mean the governor's massive state budget cuts -- $446 million-- will be felt only in the halls of state buildings. They will be felt by the common man and woman in our communities. It is not hard tofind examples.
At the sexual assault center, the governor's message means a loss about $68,000 in state money. In the grand scheme of the state budget deficit, that is a pinprick. But it is a huge gouge in the finances of the non-profit center. It means Peppersack's job will be cut. She is the only full-time sexual assault counselor there.
Peppersack is a college-educated woman with a master's degree. Somehow she will move on, survive.
But what of the 20 people she is counseling? Half of them are children struggling with the confusion and shame of being sexually abused. There will be no one to help bringthem through their pain, to make their lives good again.
And therein lies the real tragedy of the state budget cuts.
As Peppersack puts it, "To pull that service, that support out from under them is victimizing them again. The thought of that happenning gives me a feeling I can not describe."
At the Mann House the governor's message means their doors likely will close, after 20 years of helping chronic alcoholics and junkies get on to a new road.
Says Creed, the director, "Come Nov. 30, we could be shutting the doors closed. It's that simple. We're a no-frills outfit. We operate two homes, one for men, the other for women, on $131,000 and we're looking at a $75,000 cutfrom the state. We have a 66 percent success rate. We're a bargain for the money we get."
Will the six women and 12 men at Mann House now be turned to the street? Will the one last beacon of hope in a ruined life go dark? If you think the state's budget problem is far from your doorstep, then listen to Creed.
"Most of these people have no support network, no resources like you and me. They have burned all their bridges at home. They have no money, no jobs. Where will theyturn to? The street, of course. They'll be back to the cocaine or the booze. And where will they get the money for that? Well -- now thisis not a threat but a fact -- they will turn to crime."
The governor may have summed all this up in a diplomatic manner. But I kind oflike the way Creed put it. "We have a mess on our hands."