Subsistence allowance program may be cut

January 10, 1995|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

Gov-elect Parris N. Glendening is considering abolishing a state program that provides a subsistence allowance to some of the poorest citizens in the state.

Mr. Glendening indicated yesterday in conversations with editors of The Sun that as part of his effort to pare spending in the coming year's budget, he is considering eliminating the Disabled Adult Loan Program. Last year, the program dispensed about $34 million to 21,600 people who were unemployable because of short-term disabilities. Recipients, most of whom are men, receive $157 a month plus medical assistance coverage.

Aides to the governor-elect also confirmed that Mr. Glendening is considering reducing to 2 percent a 2.5 percent cost-of-living pay raise for state employees expected in the budget Gov. William Donald Schaefer will submit just before leaving office. Mr. Glendening's budget proposals will supersede any spending plans Mr. Schaefer leaves behind.

In addition, Glendening aides confirmed the governor-elect is considering eliminating an unspecified number of positions in the state's Energy Administration as well as public information jobs within the Department of Transportation. Mr. Glendening has said he intends to consolidate state agencies and reduce the size of the state work force to make state government more efficient.

"These are options that are being considered," acknowledged Glendening spokesman Charles F. Porcari. "But, there have been no final decisions."

Elimination of the program for disabled adults has become an early target for budget cutters over the years, largely because it is fully paid for with state funds and is therefore optional.

In May 1991, in the midst of the state's budget crisis, Governor Schaefer proposed eliminating a predecessor program known as General Public Assistance. There was so much opposition, however, that a year later the state came up with the loan program as a compromise.

That program requires recipients to have a doctor declare that their disability will keep them from working for three months or longer. Recipients also are required to repay the stipends they receive from the state.

The change reduced the overall cost of the program from $52 million in fiscal year 1991 to $34 million last year. Since then, the state also has concentrated on moving the poor with longer-term disabilities out of the state program and into federally financed Social Security programs.

Richard Dowling, a spokesman for the Maryland Catholic Conference, said the loan program for the disabled should be saved.

"True, some of the [recipients] are recovering substance abusers. But some of them are also people who are otherwise disabled and for the most part unemployable," he said. "The sustenance they are provided by the state is minimalist," he said. "It is impossible really for most people to comprehend how they would live through a month in this economy on $157."

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