States Unable to Keep Up With Service Demands

Tuesday, 13 Dec 2011 11:42 AM

By Greg McDonald

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States’ efforts to cut payroll costs are leading to backlogs across the country in state services as demands increase for help due to the weak economy, according to an investigation by Stateline.org.
 
“From public housing to crime labs, restaurant inspections to court systems, four years of layoffs, furloughs, hiring freezes, and unfilled vacancies are beginning to take their toll,” Stateline reported Tuesday in the first of three articles detailing its investigation.
 
“At its most benign, the result for taxpayers is a longer wait for things like marriage licenses or birth certificates,” Stateline said. “At its most dangerous, growing backlogs are threatening the lives of vulnerable children, elders, and disabled persons, as overwhelmed protective services agencies face delays investigating reports of abuse and neglect.”
 
Among its findings, Stateline noted:
• The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which investigates teacher misconduct, has 3,240 open cases involving allegations of teachers doing everything from committing felonies to sexually abusing children. More than 1,000 of those cases have been open for more than a year.
• In Arizona, the state child protective services program is working through a backlog of 9,903 cases that have been flagged as “non-active,” a situation the agency blames on high levels of turnover and staff vacancies. This year, at least seven children who have had previous contact with Arizona’s child protective services system have died of abuse or neglect.
• Iowa has fallen behind on annual safety inspections of elevators and boilers across the state, in some case by as much as nine years, according to a September audit, and was found to be as many as nine years delinquent on elevator inspections.
• And in Hawaii, 11,000 people remain on a waiting list for public housing, while at least 310 homes sit vacant because budget cuts have delayed repairs and processing work. 
Stateline, a news and research service under the Pew Center on the States, reported that almost every backlog could be linked in some way to the bad economy. But it said some of the worst cases were often the result of chronic under-funding and mismanagement even in good years.

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