Calling All Advocates: Resolve Funding Crisis for People with Disabilities
Live Oak, Fla. 32064 (July 24, 2020) – The Arc North Florida, Inc. and the disability community across the state of Florida will lose their federal and state-issued emergency coronavirus funding on August 1. The clock is ticking as of 4 p.m. Friday, July 24 for these providers to make the impossible choice of whether to risk the health and safety of their clients during pandemic or close programs.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) cut funding for organizations that serve adults with disabilities. The emergency funds received in the past three months, governed by a policy designed to cover services during a short-term natural disaster, not a long-term pandemic. The news came as the U.S. is experiencing an alarming spike in coronavirus cases and deaths, and Florida is no exception and hit very hard. It would be dangerous and irresponsible to resume in-person services for this particularly vulnerable population at this time. By cutting this type funding, is exactly what agencies will have to do to survive.
As this current health crisis grew, providers made choices on how to provide supports in the safest manner possible. Many agencies with Residential Homes cannot allow visitors or community exposure of the virus to invade the homes. We are forced to close day services provided to community participants to avoid any virus exposure to residential residents. If the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), the governing body for the state, does not continue funding these organizations, it will impact nearly 35,000 people with disabilities statewide.
If we do not speak up now about cuts to services for people with disabilities, where will it end? If we close these programs, there will be no place to receive vital, medically necessary state-mandated services that reduce abuse and neglect, ensure dignity and quality of life, and assist those who are already marginalized.
Funding is just one issue; staffing needs are another, as the state is suffering from a staffing shortage for these essential positions. We must value and protect this at-risk community in the same way we protect the elderly. They and the people on the front line who care for them are essential and deserve to earn accordingly.
Organizations providing services for people with disabilities are requesting that APD release the already budgeted state funding for day programs, while pursuing other options with the federal government, including an emergency funding extension. The clock is ticking with less than two weeks to figure it out.
About The Arc North Florida, Inc.
The Arc is changing the conversation around disabilities by defying definitions, inspiring possibilities, and improving the lives of the people we serve. Since 1981, The Arc has envisioned a community where every person feels welcome, connected, and accepted.