Stagnant Economy Evokes Memories Of The Depression

1 News Story

January 05, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

BALTIMORE — The past year evoked memories of the Great Depression for county residents who lived through the 1930s and for younger generations who recall stories of economic woe and human despair from grandparents.

County Department of Citizen Services Director Jolene G. Sullivan said poverty in Carroll and the nation is more widespread now than at any time since the Depression, as she announced the formation in November of Carroll Circle of Caring.

The charitable organization is a coalition of seven non-profit civic and ecumenical groups that provide food, health care, shelter, clothing, fuel and other emergency assistance to the needy. The coalition was formed to coordinate efforts as the legion of needy grows and government's financial ability to provide assistance diminishes.

During 1991, more people were homeless and in need of shelter space than ever before. The longer lines prompted the county commissioners tocreate a new shelter in a county-owned building in October for 30 occupants.

The number of people applying for government housing subsidies also increased significantly from 1990 to 1991 -- from about 30monthly to 40 to 45 monthly -- and during the holidays, more people were referred for food and gift donations.

County unemployment lines grew, with the jobless rate reach ing 7.4 percent in February, thehighest level in seven years. The unemployment rate ranged from 5 percent to 7 percent most of 1991, compared with 2 percent to 4 percentover the last few years.

Carroll bankruptcy filings doubled the first six months of 1991 compared with the same period in 1990: from 16 to 35 for business and 111 to 221 for personal.

As revenues fellbelow projections and the state ordered reductions in local aid, county officials spent much of their time trying to figure out how to maintain services and avoid layoffs.

So far, the commissioners have avoided painful cuts in their juggling act to keep the budget balanced, but the ripple effect from the latest state cuts has touched county employees and soon could be felt by the public. The commissioners announced that most county employees will be required to take furloughs -- four unpaid days by June 30.

They also have asked the Board of Education to trim nearly $2 million from schools, on top of $1 million in previous cuts. School administrators say the cuts could affectstudent programs.

Nearly $10 million in direct and indirect reductions have been made in the county's 6-month-old fiscal 1992 budget. The county Health Department absorbed the largest hit from the state,eliminating or severely curtailing several programs to prevent diseases, treat addictions and promote health. Almost one-third of its 325-employee force was eliminated.

The commissioners transferred $150,000 to the Resident Trooper Program to keep the county's main law enforcement agency at full strength after the state ordered about $300,000 in cuts in October. State police enacted measures to save the other $150,000.

SS: A LOOK BACK AT 1991

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