Advocates Rally Against Cuts for Individuals With Developmental Disabilities
Developmental disability advocates, clients, parents, and providers warned lawmakers Tuesday that nearly $40 million in proposed cuts will have an adverse impact on the services they receive or provide.
The majority of the cuts the group cited Tuesday were continued from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s December rescission package and carried over into the Appropriations Committee budget.
Joseph Duffy, a parent of a 28-year-old developmentally disabled adult, said in his eyes the cuts are discriminatory.
“Why in the eyes of the budget crunchers . . . why doesn’t she count?” Duffy said.
Duffy said his daughter Katie works a job for pay every day and has a wonderful work ethic. He said he worries what would happen if the supports she has to get her to that job disappear.
“If that is threatened, if that is taken . . . There are not enough words in a Thesaurus to explain what would happen if she has to stay home,” Duffy said. “I lose sleep about it.”
Patrick Johnson, president of Oak Hill, a company that provides services for people with disabilities in 58 towns, said that over the past 20 years the state has chronically underfunded these community services.
“We need a 4 percent increase in fiscal year 2014, and a 3 percent increase in fiscal year 2015 to simply stay where we are now and meet fixed costs,” Johnson said.
He said for every year it doesn’t receive a 2 percent increase in funding, it has to absorb a $1 million loss.
“We need politics with a heart,” Duffy said.
In the last five years, nonprofit community providers have seen their cost-of-living allowances rise only one time, and by one percent. That increase went into effect in January.
Johnson said that it softens the blow, but his organization will still be losing money.
About 78 percent of the services these nonprofits provide come in the form of wages and benefits for their employees who run the programs and take care of the clients.
“The dirty little secret is we balance our budget on the backs of our employees,” Johnson said.
He said all community providers want pay their employees more, but without an increase in funding from the state they’re forcing their employees into public assistance programs by paying poverty wages.
He said that over the past few years there has been an increased demand for the services, but there ars fewer public dollars to support it. He said there seems to be a march backward.
“It’s not sustainable. If it keeps up over time, group homes will be made to look like mini-institutions,” Johnson said.
Without the state funding these adults won’t be able to go and get jobs and live with some level of independence, according to the Connecticut Community Providers Association, Arc of Connecticut, and Connecticut Association of Nonprofits.
“It’s not reasonable to expect that we can provide services today with the same quality and the same assurance of safety for the same costs that were established seven or eight years ago,” Johnson said.
Lawmakers and members of the Malloy administration are negotiating the budget behind closed-doors and it’s not clear if these cuts will be restored since they have yet to discussed publicly. Lawmakers have until June 5 to approve a budget.