Parents protest proposed Steel Valley Family Center cuts
Families enrolled in programs at McKeesport's Steel Valley Family Center are asking the state to reconsider proposed budgetary cuts that could drain local facilities of critical funds.
Parents and children stood outside of the East Eighth Avenue facility yesterday morning waving signs and repeating the phrase “save our center” to raise awareness of an eliminated $4 million line item for community-level family center appropriations.
Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a balanced $27.3 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. His plan cuts government spending by 3 percent, mostly by consolidating programs.
It includes a return to the 2008-09 education appropriation — still an increase in funding over the past 10 years, but an apparent decrease due to a lack of federal stimulus funds.
“The lack of funding is devastating for the people of this area who depend on the services that this center provides,” said Sarah McCluan, spokeswoman for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, which operates the Steel Valley center along with 11 others in Allegheny County.
The centers offer family literacy support, early childhood care, education and comprehensive case management. The AIU also works closely with Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families to provide a safety net for families working with that agency.
In Allegheny County, 3,651 families would lose support services if the proposed budget is approved. That translates to 5,904 children and 4,318 adults in Allegheny County alone.
The Steel Valley Family Center serves approximately 100 families per year from the Steel Valley boroughs of Munhall, Homestead and West Homestead as well as some from West Mifflin and Whitaker.
“It is critical to our community that these services are available at a time when everything is being cut in their lives — everything from bus service to benefits,” Steel Valley site director Mary Paull said. “They need somewhere to turn.”
Several mothers shared their stories as they pleaded for funding during the Tuesday morning protest outside of Steel Valley Family Center.
“I am a single mother of five children,” Carmella Jones of Homestead explained. “I was able to get my driver's license through this center. It helps parents. It helps kids. It helps families that want to continue on the road to self-sufficiency.”
Kelly Maxwell of Munhall is a mother of three. She said the center helped her acquire eye glasses for herself and winter coats for her children. Her family also has benefited from transportation arrangements and support programs offered by the center.
“My kids wouldn't get to play with other kids, and I wouldn't get to meet other mothers,” Maxwell said.
Parents rallied the support of Homestead Mayor Betty Esper and Munhall Mayor Raymond Bodnar.
Esper said child development is one of the most important things about which a community and its government should be concerned.
“I think the governor needs to come down and look at places like this,” Esper said. “I don't understand where he's coming from.”
Bodnar said it is “imperative” that programs such as those offered by the Steel Valley Family Center stay in the governor's budget.
Paull emphasized that the center does not duplicate services — something Corbett focused on when justifying many of the proposed cuts.
“We work with the services that are already in our community,” she said. “We work hand in hand.”
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