Funding Cuts in Florida Could Be Future for Other States

E-Newsletter Issue Date: Friday, April 15, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: As this newsletter went to press we received word that the Governor of Florida has rescinded an executive order for 15 percent cuts in funding for providers working with people with developmental disabilities. “The governor heard our voices,” said Deb Linton of The Arc of Florida, “I’m glad he listened.” Read on for the full story with updates at the end.

In case you want or need proof of how national economic policy is playing out on a local level, you should be aware what is happening in Florida. Disability service providers in Florida, including many Chapters of The Arc, are impacted by an immediate 15 percent funding cut ordered by the governor which applies to many state services.

An estimated 30,000 people with developmental disabilities are living in the community rather than institutions with help from the disappearing funding. Service providers say there’s simply no room to slash budgets by an additional 15 percent on top of already deep cuts and that some will be forced to go out of business or leave clients in undesirable situations.

The executive director of The Arc of the St. Johns took to the airwaves to oppose the cuts and offer some constructive help for the governor with their opinions on how services can be provided in the most efficient and fiscally responsible way possible. She offered the expertise of the 42 affiliated Chapters of The Arc in Florida to these ends. And she encouraged an active voter-registration drive to give the tens of thousands of individuals with I/DD an active voice at the polls.

Becoming more politically active and expressing opinions at the ballot box may be the main recourse citizens have as more and more state and federal officials attempt to balance budgets and address deficits by cutting or eliminating social programs at the expense of their constituents. You can find out more about how to exercise your political power at our Action Center and sign up for Action Alerts from The Arc to get alerts about important legislation and issues.

UPDATE: On Thursday, Governor Rick Scott rescinded the executive order calling for a 15 percent rate reduction for service providers working with Floridians with developmental disabilities. Advocates, including Chapters of The Arc, trekked to Tallahassee last week to protest the cuts. Hundreds of individuals with disabilities and caregivers converged on the Governor’s office and eventually met with his budget staff. Scott later rescinded the order saying the House and Senate agreed to fill a deficit in the Medicaid program.

Deb Linton of The Arc of Florida said the next step is for the disabled community to meet with the Governor to discuss the deficit. Similar to The Arc of the St. John’s sentiments when they publicly offered to help the state find solutions for budget problems without cutting services, Deb said “We need to be open, transparent and look at everything. The governor’s office can’t solve this by themselves.”