Representatives from The Arc New Jersey met separately with staff from the gubernatorial campaigns of Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and former Ambassador Phil Murphy. They discussed issues important to I/DD community including the shift to a fee-for-service for Medicaid, DSP wage increases, and the importance of community integration. These meetings gave the chapter an opportunity to educate the candidates about the issues and the chapter ahead of election day.
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.
The Arc Mercer, a local chapter of The Arc New Jersey, recently created a self-advocacy organization for LGBTQ people with I/DD called Special Needs Alliance for Pride (SNAP). SNAP serves the role of providing support, socialization, and advocacy. Lt. Governor candidate and former Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver recently attended an event they hosted to speak to members about the importance of diversity in the state.
The Arc Wisconsin and other disability and aging organizations coordinated an informational session for legislators and their staffers on Medicaid and the health care legislation being considered by Congress. The information session was co-sponsored by Representatives Tom Weatherson and Beth Meyers, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Assembly Aging and Long-Term Care Committee, respectively. Lisa Pugh, Executive Director of The Arc Wisconsin served as an expert speaker, and David Boelter, Executive Director of The Arc Fond du Lac, served as a panelist. Read more about the briefing here.
The Arc New Jersey, as part of the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage, organized a group of more than 50 family members, self-advocates, providers, and DSPs to visit the State House and advocate for higher wages for DSPs. They met with at least 50 elected officials, including Senate President Steve Sweeney and members of both Budget Committees. For more information, visit the Coalition Facebook page.
The Arc New Jersey has been vigorously advocating for a DSP wage increase. Executive Director Tom Baffuto testified before the Senate Budget Committee on the issue. He explained that low wages create a barrier to recruitment and retention and that “Although the proposed budget recognizes the need for increased service dollars, those dollars do not help the system if we don’t have the necessary staff to deliver the services.” Additionally, advocates from The Arc New Jersey have been meeting with members of the Assembly Budget Committee.
The Arc of Indiana and INARF (another Indiana disability organization) recently organized a luncheon at the State House for freshmen legislators in order to educate new lawmakers on the priorities and concerns of the disability community.
The Arc of Virginia along with many self-advocates and family members attended a public hearing about the state budget this week before the General Assembly in order to protest budget cuts to I/DD services. Several speakers relayed stories of having to wait a decade or more for services because their family members don’t qualify. Others raised the importance of increasing DSP wages to support community living. Prior to the hearing, the chapter produced a 2017 Budget Hearing Guide that included a toolkit for advocates on how best to provide feedback on the budget, specific waitlist numbers, and letter-writing tips, among other resources.
The Arc of Minnesota has issued its 2017 public policy priorities. These include, among others, implementing new employment services, expanding consumer-directed community supports, and increasing funding for housing. On January 10, The Arc of Minnesota and the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance will host the first “Tuesday at the Capitol” of the new legislative session where they will provide a brief update on legislative priorities, distribute fact sheets, and hold a press conference. This will also present an opportunity for members of The Arc of Minnesota to meet with their state legislators.