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President Trump signs a spending bill to avert a government shutdown; it's deadline day for cities to opt out of a federal opioid settlement; and a new report says unsafe toys still are in stores.

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Affordable housing legislation was introduced in Congress yesterday, following the first debate questions about housing. Plus, Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu was indicted for fraud, bribery, and breach of trust, just days after the Trump administration’s policy greenlighting Israeli settlement of the West Bank. And finally, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues his slow and steady potential entry into the race.

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AZ Budget Bloodshed Goes Beyond State Agencies

May 18, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – Large cuts in the state budget aren't just affecting Arizona government agencies and state workers; there's a ripple effect also hitting private firms with state contracts.

One example is Arizona-based Human Resource Training Incorporated, which contracts with the state to provide counseling and education for families at risk of having their children removed from the home. The small firm has laid off half its staff because of the state budget cuts, but CEO Sally Jones says their preventive services are needed more than ever as families deal with poverty and job losses.

"There's a lot of stress, and parents are having to leave the children at home, or the kids are not getting enough to eat, or the parents are using alcohol and drugs to deal with the crises that are happening."

Jones says her company typically works with more than 150 families a month. She worries about those no longer receiving services.

"What's happening to those other 75 families that we would have worked with? They're either getting no services at all, or trying to scramble around, or their children have been removed. I don't know what’s happened to them. All I know is that we're not seeing them."

Jones says people need to realize that spending cuts to social service agencies so far have impacted only the current year's state budget.

"It has nothing to do with next year. These are just from the January cuts. And we're holding our breath for what's going to come down in July, and that the legislature hopefully doesn't make more huge cuts."

Jones says her company's three-days-a-week in-home interventions cost less than half what the state pays when a child is put in foster care and, she says, it's better for kids if the problems can be solved without taking them from their families.

Raising taxes to avoid such cuts was rejected by lawmakers out of concern that higher taxes would further damage the economy.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ