Two chapters of The Arc Connecticut, The Arc Favarh and The Arc Litchfield, hosted a meeting with state Senator Kevin Witkos (R-Canton), and Representatives Jay Case (R-Winchester), Mike Demicco (D-Farmington), John Hampton (D-Simsbury), and Derek Slap (D-West Hartford). Parents and self-advocates at the meeting implored the legislators to restore funding for disability services, which has lapsed due to the state’s failure to pass a budget. The legislators assured attendees that they were sympathetic, but did not reveal what a future budget may look like. Lauren Traceski, a client of The Arc Favarh, discussed being unable to work on a few days this summer because her employment supports weren’t funded and said, “A job is how we show our success.” See The Arc Connecticut’s Facebook page and this article from the Hartford Courant for more information.
As a result of advocacy by The Arc Massachusetts, the House voted to override Governor Charlie Baker’s line-item vetoes of $6 million in Community Residential funding. Funding had already been cut by the conference committee. The override vote will now go to the Senate for consideration.
As a result of advocacy by The Arc Pennsylvania, HB 218, the state budget, which offered the highest level of support for people with disabilities in recent years, passed both houses of the legislature and became law. The budget includes:
- 1000 slots for a new Community Living Waiver capped at $70,000 per person per year;
- 820 Person/Family Directed Supports Waiver slots for special education graduates with ID and/or autism;
- 50 new Adult Autism Waiver slots; and
- Expansion of the Targeted Services Management State Plan to include more than 1,500 people with autism and/or ID on the waiting list.
Advocates from The Arc Connecticut participated in a furlough day rally at the state capitol to protest the lack of a budget for community services for people with I/DD. Attendees included self-advocates, parents, and a bi-partisan group of state legislators. Pictures from the rally can be found on the Chapter’s Facebook page.
Chad Sinanian, a self-advocate and member of the Board of Directors of The Arc Connecticut penned a letter to the editor in the News-Times discussing the harm caused to people with I/DD by the failure of the Connecticut General Assembly and Governor to pass a budget. He discussed the impact of the resulting cuts on people with disabilities who have lost services and are stuck at home. Additionally, he discussed a rally at which 300 people with I/DD and family members “staged a protest and send a strong clear message to the governor and Legislature that we will not allow people with disabilities to lose their program and services.”
The Arc Connecticut is advocating for funding for its services in the face of a lapse in Medicaid funding that threatens the services they provide and the constituents they serve. Shannon Jacovino, Director of Advocacy for The Arc Connecticut, was quoted in an article in the Hartford Courant discussing the average cost of serving people with I/DD in Connecticut. Kate Haaland, a parent advocate with The Arc Connecticut and her son Chris create a video explaining how important Medicaid is for him. Chris states: “I can have an amazing life……just like you. But only if Medicaid exists.” The chapter also held a rally at the state capitol that drew 300 people.
Connecticut began the new Fiscal Year on July 1 without a state budget. This leaves people with I/DD, their families, and providers uncertain of what services can be provided moving forward. Tom Fiorentino, President of the Board of Directors of The Arc Connecticut, told NBC Connecticut: “These are what I would term massive cuts to the very core of the private provider system in Connecticut, and that’s the system that provides about 90 percent of all assistance to people with intellectual disabilities, not state employees, private providers.” His son Daniel, who has Down Syndrome, works at a dermatologist’s office three days a week with the support of a job coach and attends a day program two days a week. These services are now at risk.
The Arizona State Legislature has approved a state budget with mixed results for The Arc Arizona. It does not include an extension of the TANF limit from one year to two years. However, it includes the $2 million increase for the Arizona Early Intervention Program the chapter sought, along with funding for occupational therapy and emergency dental services under Medicaid. It also includes $150 million for various education initiatives such as teacher salary increases and dropout prevention. Additionally, it includes $9.7 million to partially cover the cost of increases DSP wages to comply with the state’s minimum wage increase.
Meg Cooch, Executive Director of The Arc Illinois, and Kimberly Johnson-Evans, mom and Ligas Family Advocate, testified at a House Human Services Appropriations hearing on the FY18 Department of Human Services budget. They stressed the need to rebalance funding to focus on home and community-based services, the need for a wage increase for DSPs, and the funding of grant programs including Life Span, The Autism Program, and Best Buddies.
The Arc New Jersey, as Chair of the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage, recently coordinated more than 75 advocates to visit with the Assembly Budget Committee to show support for increasing wages for DSPs in the FY18 Budget. Self-advocates, their DSPs, and families packed the Committee Room as Department of Human Services Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly answered questions about the fiscal plan for the upcoming year. The Coalition had some concerns with those responses and intends to follow-up with Budget Committee members about the testimony. In addition to this hearing, the chapter continues to meet with budget members one-on-one to push for increased wages for DSPs and is coordinating a Twitter campaign to raise awareness by using the hashtag #PayFair4DirectCare. So far hundreds of tweets with this hashtag have been sent and more continue to come through.