Harrisburg CUTS Funding from Budget for Intellectual Disabilities/Autism Services
By Steve Suroviec, Achieva President and CEO
Six days late, the legislature passed a state budget – one that had funding cut for services for people with intellectual disabilities and autism (ID/A). The governor’s office, calling it “a budget that delivers on Governor Shapiro’s key priorities” approves. There is no other conclusion to draw – that is, people with ID/A are not a priority for the new governor, the new House leadership, or the Senate.
In March, the new governor proposed a budget, which woefully underfunded community services for people with ID/A. With only one rate increase from the state in over six years, waiting lists have grown and service providers have found it nearly impossible to fill direct support vacancies or make a dent in their staff turnover rates. Experts calculated that the governor’s ID/A budget was underfunded by about $435 million in state funds, attributable to years of flat rates and record inflation in labor costs, fuel, housing, and health care costs.
Numerous editorial pages across the Commonwealth agreed with the experts and called on state officials in no uncertain terms to increase funding for the ID/A community system, reminding so-called leaders in Harrisburg that state government – as the ID/A system’s single payer for services – not only had an obligation to do so but had a Rainy Day Fund flush with dollars to do it.
Data, expert analysis, and public sentiment were all shared with the governor, the new House leadership, and Senate leadership. Governor Shapiro even took a meeting with folks who relied on ID/A funding - a self-advocate with an intellectual disability, his family, and advocates familiar with the plight of numerous others. Stories were shared about the reality on the ground in terms of not being able to find and keep good direct support staff due to years of underfunding by the state. Some who attended the meeting reported that the governor really seemed to get it, holding out hope that he might get involved in restoring the funds the House had cut. But Governor Shapiro’s performance failed to translate into action once the meeting ended and the photo ops were over.
In short, here’s a summary of who’s responsible:
- In March, Governor Shapiro proposes a budget that underfunds the ID/A system.
- In early June, the newly-controlled House of Representatives votes to CUT funding from the governor’s proposed ID/A budget.
- In late June, the Senate passes a budget, doing nothing to restore the House cuts.
- Early July, Governor Shapiro agrees to sign the budget, having failed to do anything to restore the ID/A budget cuts during budget negotiations.
Pennsylvanians with ID/A needed a champion during this budget process, and neither the governor nor the General Assembly were anywhere to be found. They all talk a good game. Our elected officials in Harrisburg all seem genuine, saying the right things when they’re in constituent meetings or responding to constituent mail - but when it comes right down to it, people with ID/A, their families, and direct support professionals simply aren’t a priority to them. This latest state budget is just more proof.
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