End of Formal State Legislative Session

Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts General Court (our legislature) has wrapped up its session with veto overrides and the passage of several bills. Lower than expected revenues were a major factor in the decisions made. The governor further reduced the budget by $256 million through vetoes after legislators made significant reductions. Typically, the conference committee negotiates between the funding in each branch’s budget, but this time the falling revenues forced decision makers to reduce below the previous budgets.

The first of three formal sessions of the legislature to address the vetoes took place on Saturday, July 23rd.  We have the following good news to report:

  • The Turning 22 funding veto was overridden and $500,000 was restored.
  • The funding for Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment was restored at $250,000.
  • Early Intervention funding was restored at $150,000.
  • The veto for Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children was overridden.
  • $150,000 was restored in the account for Aging with Developmental Disabilities.
We remain positive about a couple more priority overrides to be taken up in the coming week including funding for Operation House Call and Dental Health services for adults with I/DD.
Read more at arcmass.org.

 

More on the budget highs and lows-

A high point in the budget that was not vetoed included the DDS Family Support line item receiving a $5M increase in funding.  Increasing funds for family support is a priority for The Arc.  This year we initiated the Supporting Families Campaign with six other disability organizations in Massachusetts. We advocated for more meaningful supports for families and called attention to the issue of aging caregivers. The action of the legislature and the Governor showed their understanding and support.

Other good news includes the approval for MassHealth to fund non federally funded Augmentative or assistive devices as long  as the cost is below the state’s typical shares for such equipment (allows use of over the counter items like ipads which have software for persons with disabilities and which are much cheaper than dedicated machines; which are federally reimbursable). Also the ABLE Act was addressed – Mass’ law passed before the federal law so we needed revisions on the existing legislation to ensure consistency with the IRS.

Overall, it has been a tough year for the budget. Some of the continued challenges are relative to the area of Day and Employment services.  Although the legislature provided some increases, provider contracts had to be negotiated at 5% lower amount as the employment blueprint funding is below the Governor’s request and more employment dollars were needed to align with new regulations and more individuals graduating.

The numbers are growing in Turning 22 and Adult Autism services in the coming year as well.  Although no rainy day funds were used, a large portion of DDS trust funds are now allocated to adult autism services and family support.  We have a shortfall of  6.5 million dollars in Community Residential and need to be concerned about the rising numbers and new federal regulations. Transportation lost $1 Million and it’s a critical resource which can make or break good available programs and services.

The Arc continues to monitor services and program needs throughout our state and always encourage your feedback and your voices as we advocate together to strengthen our community.

 

 

 

 

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