Months without financial aid from Harrisburg - and no sign the spigot will flow again soon - is starting to wear on officials and agencies across the region.
Through this month, Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, and Bucks Counties have shelled out more than $70 million from reserves to keep critical social service providers afloat. But officials from each aren't sure how long they can last and are watching their coffers week by week.
"The budget is becoming stressed," said Jonathan Rubin, director of human services for Bucks County, which has spent between $6 million and $7 million monthly to fund social service programs usually paid for by the state.
With the state House in recess and no sign the impasse will end, the stress will likely continue.
In interviews Wednesday, Gov. Wolf reiterated that he needs to "stand tall" and negotiate a budget with the Republican-led legislature that contains new revenue. Otherwise, he said, "we're going to be facing huge cuts in schools, huge cuts in county-level human services, and huge property tax increases" come 2016.
"We are facing a cliff next year, and we need to deal with it now, and we need to understand a train wreck is coming if we do nothing now," Wolf told KQV-AM 1410 in Pittsburgh. "We have to deal with it now."
County officials - and the nonprofit service providers they are scrambling to protect - are beginning to face a crisis.
"It is the most vulnerable population in the county," said Uri Monson, chief financial officer for Montgomery County. "That's who will potentially be bearing the brunt of this."
Montgomery County will have spent approximately $30 million by the end of October from reserves to keep services for the mentally ill, the disabled, at-risk youth, and the elderly from being shuttered. Chester County has spent about $17 million and recently began to pay only 80 percent of the obligations.
All county officials interviewed said they expect all of the money to be reimbursed by the state when a budget is finally passed, including the liabilities they have been unable to meet.
Those liabilities may be highest in Delaware County, where about $5.5 million a month is going unpaid to nonprofit social service providers. The county is paying about $1.5 million a month to the most vulnerable social service agencies, along with another $700,000 or so to county employees who work in social services, according to County Councilman John McBlain.
But frustration is growing, even among agencies that might otherwise seem stable.
"We take care of the most challenged of our citizens and are not considered worth supporting at this point," said Sandra Cornelius, president of Elwyn, a Media-based nonprofit that operates programs for the developmentally disabled in four states. Elwyn's operations stretch from behavioral health services to providing summer activities for children with mental illness.
Elwyn's size and its endowment have allowed it to take out a line of credit. But even if the money from the months without a budget is reimbursed, interest on bank loans is likely to continue to weigh on Elwyn.
A similar challenge is confronting the Child Guidance Resource Centers that operate in Delaware, Montgomery, Chester, and Philadelphia Counties. The organization provides behavioral health services and other programs for 10,000 people a year, 90 percent of which are children and adolescents. Services include running a school for children with behavioral issues and organizing outings and events for mentally disabled adults, like a day at the beach.
A bank loan has helped services continue, but CGRC president Brad Barry faces constant funding woes. "It makes for tension-filled days and sleepless nights," he said.
Karen Graff, executive director of the Penndel Mental Health Center, which serves Bucks County, said she is grateful that Bucks has continued to provide full funding. But she recognized it cannot continue indefinitely.
"There's not a lot of fanfare around services like us," Graff said. "What we do is not sexy or pretty, but we serve a lot of people, and a lot of people who don't have anywhere else to go."
Inquirer staff writer Angela Couloumbis contributed to this article.