Gov. Bev Perdue is using money intended to help foster families and people with HIV to expand the states pre-kindergarten program.
The decision is drawing criticism from child and health advocates who said they worry that other children and adults who depend on health services may go without them.
Perdue announced last week that she would transfer $20 million from other state Department of Health and Human Services programs to expand N.C. Pre-K by as many as 6,300 4-year-olds. Her office did not say then where she was getting the money, but state officials said it would come from accounts where it would otherwise go unspent.
DHHS will continue to review expenses, said Chrissy Pearson, senior adviser to department Acting Secretary Al Delia. There could be future adjustments based on actual spending, she said.
Advocates of early childhood programs applauded Perdue when she announced the Pre-K expansion, but one withdrew his support when he found out where the money is coming from.
Rob Thompson, executive director of the Covenant with North Carolinas Children, said Friday he no longer supports Perdues move.
Its hard to know in October how much money is going to be left unspent in June, he said.
Others who work with the programs being dipped into also had concerns.
Providers of services for disabled children were already grappling with budget cuts. Im not sure where shes finding $6 million, said Fred Waddle, chief compliance and policy officer for Easter Seals/UCP.
Lisa Hazirjian, executive director of the N.C. AIDS Action Network in Raleigh, said she wasnt worried about people now in the drug assistance program getting kicked out, but the $5 million reduction could determine how many additional people are able to receive life-saving drugs.
Thats a big concern for us, she said.
In August, the state announced it had received a $3 million federal grant to get all 278 people who were on a waiting list into the drug assistance program. But officials didnt know if they had enough to keep another waiting list from forming. About 6,000 people are enrolled in the drug assistance program.
Hazirjian said the state a few years ago reduced the variety of medicine people could receive because of budget cuts. People need medicine for illness related to HIV infection that they can no longer receive through AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), she said.
Michelle Wilson, who has received medicine through the drug assistance program since 2009, said she supports helping children. But the state should be certain its not jeopardizing the health of people who qualify for ADAP, she said.
Some of the people in drug assistance program are parents, said Wilson, a mother of six from Winston-Salem.
They have to be there to take care of the kids, she said.