The Arc applauds the Conference Committee for including the legislature’s increases and language supports for our community in the FY24 Budget. With their leadership and understanding of the needs of the most vulnerable citizens of the commonwealth, we have a budget that makes a needed impact on our constituency.
Special thanks to the conferees, including Ways and Means leaders, Chairs Aaron Michlewitz and Michael Rodrigues, Vice Chairs Ann Margaret Ferrante and Cindy Friedman, and ranking minority members Todd Smola and Patrick O’Connor. We appreciate the fact that the conferees and the General Court heard the pleas from The Arc and its constituents regarding the continued negative impact from the pandemic and workforce crisis, as well as the inequities affecting our most vulnerable citizens.
Conference Committee members negotiated the best budget outcomes given the House and Senate differences. The Arc is thankful for the DDS budget priorities, including $3 million in additional funds for Community Based Day and Work Programs, as well as the language that will help support thousands of individuals who are currently unserved or underserved and needing 1:1 support. Transferability across line items is also included which means funds not spent in day/employment may be given to individuals who are isolated at home and support caregivers.
The budget maintains the $173 million reserve in Chapter 257 and the $200 million for MassHealth Day Programs, originally proposed by the Governor. This funding will begin to turn the tide on the workforce shortage that has left thousands without programs. We will continue to strongly advocate for The Arc’s priority legislation to bring rates to the 75th percentile of the Bureau of Labor Statistics for our human services workforce. We look forward to engaging with the legislature and leadership for the passage of this bill, along with our advocacy partners, and the greater community.
Our health policy priority amendment, filed by Representative John Lawn, was accepted by Conference Committee. This legislation and funding will allow The Arc to maintain and grow Operation House Call, our program which is doing important work in addressing health equity and enhancing access to quality healthcare for people with disabilities. The state budget adds Section 13 to amend Chapter 17 of the Massachusetts General Laws, establishing Operation House Call through consultation with Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services [5911-1003, $150,000].
The Governor’s proposal for free community college for those over 25 years old and students pursuing degrees in nursing was also accepted and included in this FY24 budget. We are encouraged to see this, as it aligns with our community college legislation for direct support professionals and begins to address the nursing shortage.
Lastly, DDS line item funding proposed by the Governor was maintained and members of Conference Committee included an additional $2 million for the Autism Children’s Waiver. The close to 3 billion dollar budget includes:
- The Turning 22 account received full funding to cover all students in the largest class ever (1,431) with an increase of over $20 million ($105.6 million projected for 2.5 years of classes)
- Family Support/Respite grew over $7 million ($98 million)
- DDS Technology line item grew by $1 million ($2.75 million)
- Autism Omnibus grew by $10 million ($52.5 million)
As the Fall approaches, The Arc will continue to work with the legislature on our priority bill platform. We will also be meeting with the administration to continue to advocate for those who have not returned to services and those who have turned 22 and have not received any services or enough supports.
Thank you to the community of advocates who showed up to meet with their Representatives and Senators, who sent thousands of letters alongside The Arc, and/or made hundreds of calls. We need your commitment to advocacy as we continue to navigate this workforce shortage crisis now and in the future.