ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
88°
Partly Cloudy
H 87° L 66°
  • cloudy-day
    88°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 87° L 66°
  • cloudy-day
    87°
    Today
    Partly Cloudy. H 87° L 66°
  • cloudy-day
    82°
    Tomorrow
    Partly Cloudy. H 82° L 60°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

State & Regional Govt & Politics
Georgia child welfare agency OKs cuts to meet governor’s mandate
Close

Georgia child welfare agency OKs cuts to meet governor’s mandate

Georgia child welfare agency OKs cuts to meet governor’s mandate
Gov. Brian Kemp last month ordered state agencies to come up with 4% budget cuts this fiscal year, which began July 1, and 6% next year.

Georgia child welfare agency OKs cuts to meet governor’s mandate

The Georgia agency that oversees child welfare, elder abuse prevention and food stamp programs would cut hundreds of jobs and spending on numerous services under a proposal to slash $46 million in order to meet Gov. Brian Kemp’s call for a leaner state government.

Department of Human Services officials said none of its current 8,500 employees would lose their jobs, but more than 200 vacant positions or jobs now filled that will become vacant through normal attrition would remain open under the plan approved by its board Wednesday.

“I am confident that the cuts we are making are reasonable and moderate, and will continue to allow us to do our work,” said Tom Rawlings, the director of the Division of Family and Children Services, which, among other things, investigates accusations of child abuse.

Kemp last month ordered state agencies to come up with 4% budget cuts this fiscal year, which began July 1, and 6% next year.

Some massive enrollment-driven programs — such as k-12 schools, universities and Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled — are exempt from the cuts. So is about $300 million in spending on the court system and the General Assembly, which is exempt because they are separate branches of government.

In all, only about 23% of the state-funded portion of the budget was not exempted, but that still leaves several agencies on the hook for cuts, including the departments of Agriculture, Corrections, Driver Services, Public Health, public defenders, the Georgia State Patrol, the GBI, most of the Department of Natural Resources, and the administration of k-12 schools and colleges.

The DHS, including its children services division, would be among the hardest hit agencies because it has a huge budget and Kemp only exempted a portion of it from cuts.

This year, in fiscal 2020, the agency would save millions of dollars by cutting vacant positions and travel in areas such as child services staffers, and elder abuse investigations and prevention. Spending on some elderly home and community-based services would be reduced.

A newly created project to monitor kids in abuse cases after their cases have been closed would be eliminated, as would some transportation services. Foster parent recruitment would be cut, as would several education programs.

Many of the same cuts would continue in fiscal 2021, which begins July 1, but the proposal includes not filling 73 child welfare services positions and 105 in the division that handles eligibility for welfare and food stamps as the jobs are vacated through normal agency attrition.

Just a few years ago, the state was adding jobs in those areas because heavy workloads for child welfare caseworkers and problems in handling food stamp applicants were long major problems for the state.

Agencies throughout state government that do everything from patrolling highways and guarding felons to investigating environmental problems and administering health care programs for one-quarter of Georgians are scrambling to come up with plans to meet Kemp’s request.

Kemp said the state would begin withholding money from agencies starting Oct 1.

Many of the agencies on the chopping block are labor-intensive — they provide services that require staffers — so there are fears they will have to eliminate positions. However, some agencies also have many vacant positions that may be cut to make up the difference.

Kemp won office in 2018 promising a leaner state government, and he wants to have enough money to fund his priorities, such as another big pay raise for teachers.

While the administration isn’t seeing flashing red warning signs on the economy, the governor and his staff have been cautious about how they deal with state finances.

The Kemp administration’s budget directive came only a few months after it cut spending by suspending for a month contributions into the State Health Benefit Plan, which provides health coverage for more than 660,000 teachers, state employees, retirees and their dependents. The one-month “holiday” saved state agencies and school districts about $235 million.

The move was made because administration officials wanted to make sure the state was able to make its budget for fiscal 2019, which ended June 30.

Good economy or bad, the administration also faces higher costs as school and health care program enrollments continue to rise.

Read More

News

  • A 13-year-old boy suffered injuries when he was struck Wednesday morning by a car in South Carolina while he was walking his little sister to a bus stop, police said. >> Read more trending news  Police said the incident happened after dispatchers started to get calls around 7 a.m. about a Chrysler PT Cruiser and a silver sedan that appeared to be involved in a road rage situation near the intersection of Rutherford Road and Wade Hampton Boulevard in Greenville. Police said near the intersection of North Pleasantburg Drive and Mallory Road, the driver of the PT Cruiser lost control and drove onto the sidewalk, striking the 13-year-old. The boy was thrown into the roadway, officials said. His sister was not injured. Authorities said the boy was conscious after the incident. He was taken to a medical facility for evaluation and treatment of his injuries. His condition was not immediately known. The driver of the PT Cruiser was taken to a medical facility with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening. The driver of the other vehicle involved in the suspected road rage incident left the scene before authorities arrived. Authorities continued work Wednesday to identify the driver. The collision also damaged power lines, causing an outage, police said.
  • A police officer in western Pennsylvania is facing charges that he used his position to have unwanted sexual contact with a woman, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Wednesday. >> Read more trending news  The incident in which Dustin Devault, 47, is accused happened while he served as an officer in Monongahela, officials said. He now works as a part-time officer with the Forward Township Police Department and as a police officer for Highmark. Authorities said the sexual assault is alleged to have happened in a police vehicle while Devault was on duty. Devault allegedly first met the woman in the summer of 2018 during a traffic stop, a grand jury found. The two met and texted several times afterward. The woman told authorities it was her understanding that Devault was going to help her become a police officer and seek treatment for a loved one who was suffering from substance use, according to investigators. On one occasion that the two met, Devault allegedly showed up in full uniform in an unmarked car. While in the car, the woman claims Devault inappropriately touched her several times and repeatedly asked her to have sex with him. 'When you are in that situation, you just freeze. You don't know what to do. He has a gun on him. He is a police officer. And I'm just a female. I just wanted to survive that moment,' the woman said during her testimony to the grand jury. The grand jury found Devault lied to his superiors in the Monongahela Police Department -- where he was removed from his position -- about his interactions with the woman and encouraged a co-worker to also lie. Devault is charged with indecent assault, official oppression and obstructing the administration of law or other governmental functions.
  • A Maine fisherman was stunned Tuesday when he pulled in his fresh catch of lobster from York Harbor. >> Read more trending news  Josh O’Brien told WSCH-TV he found a baby claw growing out of a lobster’s normal claw. “Out of all the thousands of lobsters we catch every week and everything we've caught so far this year, this is only the second of its kind we've seen,” O'Brien said.  The lobsterman cautioned against allowing the unusual growth to turn stomachs, telling WSCH the lobster is fine to eat.  “It's neat to see something like this out of the ordinary and keeps things interesting on the boat.”
  • A Maine woman is accused of rubbing fentanyl residue on her 1-year-old daughter's gums to help her sleep, which caused the child's death nearly a year ago, according to court documents. >> Read more trending news  Kimberly Nelligan, 33, of Bangor, was arrested Tuesday and charged with endangering the welfare of a child., the Bangor Daily News reported. Nelligan also faces a misdemeanor drug charge, WMTW reported. According to court documents, Nelligan had also used fentanyl on her older children. Nelligan called police Oct. 10, 2018, to report her baby was not breathing, the Daily News reported. First responders performed CPR on the child and took her to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead, WCSH reported. According to detectives, the state medical examiner's office determined the cause of death was from probable toxic effects of fentanyl, WMTW reported. In a police affidavit, the baby’s father told detectives he had seen Nelligan rub the residue of the drug on her daughter’s gums about 15 times, the Daily News reported. Nelligan allegedly told the father she had done the same thing to her two older children when they were babies, according to the affidavit. She insisted she was not trying to injure the child. “You know I didn’t hurt our daughter on purpose,” Nelligan allegedly said to the father, according to the affidavit. Nelligan was taken to the Penobscot County Jail, WCSH reported. She is being held without bond, the television station reported.
  • The anti-gun violence group Sandy Hook Promise Foundation released a public service announcement Wednesday showing students using ordinary back-to-school items to protect themselves from an active shooter. The chilling video shows smiling children talking about their new school items until the scene switches to students using new shoes to run from a shooter, a boy using a new skateboard to bust out a window to escape gunfire, and, the most heart-wrenching, a girl hiding in the bathroom texting her mother that she loves her. >> Read more trending news  The Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, which has called for bans on weapons and the sale of large amounts of ammunition, grew out of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six people were shot and killed – 20 children and six adults. The foundation warned viewers that the video is disturbing and explained in a press release why they produced it. “So far this year there have been over 22 school shootings, and with students heading back to school, it seems sadly probable that we will see more incidents. This is unacceptable, given that we have proven tools to prevent these acts from occurring. We cannot accept school shootings as the new normal in our country,” the press release read. “Our goal with this PSA is to wake up parents to the horrible reality that our children endure. Gone are the days of viewing back-to-school as just a carefree time, when school violence has become so prevalent. However, if we come together to know the signs, this doesn’t have to be the case. I hope that parents across the country will join me to make the promise to stop this epidemic,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, in the press release. Hockley’s son, Dylan, was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting. The PSA is below. Warning: Some people may find the contents disturbing.
  • The cartoonist who brought you the boneless chicken ranch and Mount Stoogemore may be coming back. >> Read more trending news  Gary Larson, whose off-the-wall, one-panel cartoon strip 'The Far Side' produced laughs from 1980 to 1995, hinted as much on 'The Far Side' website. A cartoon drawn by Larson showed a man with a blowtorch thawing a block of ice that contained some of Larson's more familiar characters. Underneath the drawing is a message -- “Uncommon, unreal, and (soon-to-be) unfrozen. A new online era of 'The Far Side' is coming!” The website, dormant for years, has been maintained by syndicator Andrews McMeel Universal, according to The Oregonian. Larson, 69, created a cult following with his cartoons, The New York Times reported. The strip was syndicated in more than 1,900 newspapers, running from Jan, 1, 1980, to Jan. 1, 1995. The strip expanded to merchandising items like day-by-day calendars, coffee mugs, T-shirts and even greeting cards, the newspaper reported. 'The Far Side' brand was pulling in an estimated $500 million before Larson announced his retirement in October 1994, according to the Times. Comic strips began to fade near the end of the 20th century, coinciding with the decline of newspapers. Berke Breathed ended 'Bloom County' in 1989, and Bill Watterson stopped drawing 'Calvin & Hobbes' in 1995, The Oregonian reported. 'Peanuts' creator Charles M. Schultz's death in 2000 ended his iconic comic strip's 50-year-run, the newspaper reported. So, are slug vacation disasters making a comeback? Will bears, alligators, robins, saber-toothed tigers and other animals be returning to the comic universe?  Judging from 'The Far Side' website tease, that sense of the absurd could be returning.