Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Ohio health department awaits fate of programs

18 cuts identified, far more unknown

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Health has yet to feel the full brunt of automatic federal budget cuts and fears the hammer may fall as local agencies enter the year’s final quarter.

To date, the state has learned the fate of just 18 of the 100 pending federal grant programs that affect everything from childhood immunizations to HIV prevention.

“Many ODH programs, as well as the locals, still do not know the actual amount of the federal grants that support their efforts,” said Dr. Ted Wymyslo, state health director. “This is proving to be a challenge for us and for them.”

The total dollar cut for the 18 federal grants has amounted to just more than $10 million, $3.2 million of which the state “absorbed,” Mr. Wymylso said. Of the remaining $6.8 million cut, the director said, the state and local agencies were able to identify alternative sources of funding and found cost savings, such as not filling vacant positions, to reduce the impact to $435,925 at the local level.

The federal budget cuts were originally wielded as a threat but became reality when President Obama and a divided Congress were unable to reach a deficit reduction deal to avert them. The effects continue to trickle down to state and local governments even as attention turns toward a new round of talks this fall to try to avoid another round next year.

The $85 billion in across-the-board cuts began on March 1 and have been blamed by some for lethargy in the economic recovery. Others argue the cuts, however painful, are still better than no deficit-reduction plan at all.

“We now have a new normal level being given by the federal government,” Mr. Wymyslo said. “This cut is going to be sustained. It will not be a one-time cut. It will not be a one-time effort to mitigate.”

Among the 18 identified cuts is $34,473, or 5.2 percent of a $662,293 request in federal funds, for treatment of black-lung disease, commonly suffered by coal miners. The state absorbed $22,713 of that, but Ohio’s two black-lung clinics have still taken cuts of $5,880 each.

A pair of comprehensive Human Immunodeficiency Virus prevention programs will take cuts of 6, 14, and 5.4 percent, respectively, to be spread proportionally among state and local service providers. The state also absorbed cuts that would have hit farmer’s markets and other food and nutrition programs for women and children.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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