With billions of federal budget deficit growth behind us including not paying for three wars, Congress is nevertheless negotiating a new tax cut. In last week’s video blog, I asked: what did Congress accomplish with this vote of which the majority leadership is so proud? This week, I’d like to bring the point home by sharing the state of the states with the help of two news clips.
In Arkansas, Gov. Hutchinson trumpets reduction of the wait list for those with developmental disabilities and we thank him for it. But when you read closely, tobacco settlement money is the source for the Medicaid federal match (70.87%). Hopefully, more permanent revenue will be found to help Arkansas maintain its efforts in providing disability services. Arkansas pays less than 30% in the end, given the federal reimbursement it will receive.
In Connecticut, newspapers report that Matthew, a teenage boy with autism and intellectual disabilities, was found dead due to “starvation, dehydration and child abuse.” Child Advocate Sarah Eagan found that the Hartford Public Schools (in 2017) had “hundreds of children with disabilities who are chronically absent from school, including more than 150 children with significant or multiple disabilities.” Matthew’s case had been closed by children’s protective services because they couldn’t gain entry to the family’s home.
In Massachusetts, we face shortfalls in revenue which have resulted in deficiencies in funding services during 2018 at the Department of Developmental Services and elsewhere. It’s not clear where the fall out will be, since most of the individual services have been approved through Medicaid, and they are subject to rates that are set by the Commonwealth.
The need is clear in our states and communities. Yet instead of scrutinizing government spending to address inefficiencies or fraud, we continue to hear calls to reduce revenue. Common folklore from some is that it won’t hurt disability services. But given these stories and realities, we are hurting already. And if Congress moves ahead, we will have to face new painful realities.
The Arc will continue its fight and we need you to be with us. The painful course that may lay ahead is not inevitable if we work together.
Leo V. Sarkissian