Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill) recently introduced legislation to expand the current Human Services Development Block Grant pilot program. House Bill 2699 would increase the number of participating counties from 20 to 30.

Under Act 80 of 2012, necessary reforms for the human services funding system were established through a block grant pilot program, which currently only allows for 20 counties to participate. However, a total of 30 counties filed applications, expressing interest in the innovative program that would allow counties to be more flexible with state human service funds. House Bill 2269 would allow them to be included in the pilot program.

"Both counties that I represent applied to be part of this pilot program," said Knowles. "While I was very pleased to see that Berks County was chosen to be part of the program, I was equally disappointed that Schuylkill County was not selected."

House Bill 2699 would allow the 10 counties that applied but were not selected as pilot counties to reapply for the expanded slots for fiscal year 2012-13. In the event that one of the 10 counties that were not selected doesn't seek to reapply, additional counties will have the opportunity to apply for that spot.

"I don't understand why we would exclude any of the 10 counties that were ready and willing to participate in this program," said Knowles. "As a former Schuylkill County commissioner, I understand how beneficial this program is to taxpayers and to counties. I see no reason why we can't amend Act 80 of 2012 to include the 10 remaining counties that expressed interest in participating."

The block grant concept was included as part of the Welfare Code of the 2012-13 state budget. The block grant concept allows counties to greater flexibility in using state funds to meet the needs of their particular county.

For additional information on this bill, contact Knowles' office by calling (570) 668-1240.