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Was behavioral health funding cut? Fact check of Mayor Sorace's Monday address

From the The coverage so far: Police shot, killed man in Lancaster city; the impacts, ruling and consequences series
city news conference

Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace talks to the media inside city council chambers Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.

The day after Ricardo Munoz was shot and killed by a Lancaster police officer, triggering riots and arrests outside the police headquarters, Mayor Danene Sorace leveled blame at cuts in safety net spending. Specifically, Sorace said behavioral health services have faced funding cuts over the past decade.

That prompted a response from County Commissioner Josh Parsons, who called the accusation “just false” and said it was “unfortunate” the city appeared to no longer value the county-city partnership.

LNP | LancasterOnline fact-checked the mayor’s funding cut claim, along with four others from her Monday address:

What she said: “There has been more than a decade’s worth of cuts to state-funded and county-delivered behavioral health and human services”

Rating: Partially True, Partially False

Reached for comment Tuesday, Jess King, the mayor's chief of staff, admitted that the mayor's statement was incorrect.

"We should not have said cuts, we should have referred to the 10% decrease from the (Governor Tom) Corbett administration," she said.

In 2012, the state cut 10% of the budget allocated for the Human Services Block Grant program, which gives counties flexibility in how to allocate human services funds.

Commissioner Craig Lehman has often complained that the state never restored this budget cut as it said it would, and he estimated that the cut has cost $672 million statewide since 2012.

Lancaster County Government’s budget for the Behavioral Health and Developmental Services department, the county’s human services agency, has not decreased in the past decade.

The department’s allocation varies from year-to-year – sometimes in the hundreds of thousands - but in 2011 the budget was $21,558,557 and in 2020 the budget is $23,449,216, according to the county’s budget presentations.

Additionally, the Drug & Alcohol and Domestic Relation budgets have seen $2 million and $600,000 net increases during the same period, respectively.

What she said: “Lancaster is the only police department in the county with a social worker and an additional hire in process”

Rating: Likely True

LNP | LancasterOnline asked Kevin McCarthy, chief of the East Earl Police Department and president of the Lancaster County Chief’s of Police association, if any other department had a social worker, to which he responded that he did not know of any, but that he has not asked that specific question of his membership.

What she said: “A third, or more like half depending on how you measure it, of our city residents live below the poverty line.”

Rating: Mostly True

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018 24.8% of residents lived below 100% of the poverty line, and 13.3 lived below 100-149% of the poverty line.

What she said: “… A third of the jobs in our region being so low wage that no hard working person holding one of them down could make it work.”

Rating: True

Sorace was referring to a 2018 study from the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County which said of the county that “one third of our workforce fills low quality – or less desirable – occupations, and these jobs have substantially higher rates of turnover.”

What she said: “It’s about half the renters in our city… burdened by the cost of their housing paying more that 30% of their income.”

Rating: True

According to the National Association of Counties, 50.5% of renters in Lancaster County pay 30% of more of their income to housing.