On Sunday night, the House and Senate Conference Committee negotiated a compromise budget bill for FY’2020 (July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020) that includes significant gains for the Commonwealth’s disability community and their families. Yesterday, the House and Senate voted to approve this budget and it was sent to the Governor who now has 10 days to review the budget bill and make decisions on what to approve, veto or return with proposed changes.
The Arc is very appreciative of the Conferee’s work to reconcile the House and Senate budgets for the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), MassHealth and related areas.
Conferees adopted the highest allocations for DDS and even increased funding above their respective blueprints for DDS Community Day and Employment with an additional $3.2 million for a total of $239,513,699. Total increased funding will assist an estimated 1,400 additional people than in 2019. In addition, the Autism Omnibus line item gained another $3.3 million in conference for a total of $30,752,968. An estimated 500 more adults with autism spectrum disorder, Smith-Magenis syndrome or Prader-Willi syndrome will be supported with the total increase.
We are also appreciative of the approximately $7.5 million for the Autism Children’s Waiver line item, which serves children with autism under the age of 9 and their families. In addition, we are grateful for the securing the DESE-DDS funding, which helps families stay together when a child is at risk of an out of home placement. Hundreds of families waiting for help will receive it through this cost-effective program.
We are also pleased to see over $25 million invested to Turning 22 in this FY’20 budget. The Turning 22 program assists over 1,000 individuals with I/DD now graduating from high school in need of adult services. In addition, these funds will allow DDS to continue to work to assimilate the new constituency of persons with I/DD in this age range. Another important increase was in the area of Respite/Family Support at $70,092,263, which was a $5 million increase from FY’19 and will assist many more families in caring for their loved ones.
We are thankful for the boost in Mass Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI), which provides more access to college courses and learning opportunities for people with I/DD or autism. The budget also includes essential funding to help additional families and individuals with DDS transportation services, community residential programs, supports for individuals aging with I/DD as well as other critical budget line items for the disability community.
This budget clearly recognizes the different challenges that individuals with I/DD and autism and their families face as well as the importance programs and services that support them.
Please stay tuned to The Arc of Mass as the budget moves to the Governor’s desk for the final process of the cycle.