Nonprofit Provider Organizations which support Marylanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families are currently in the fight of their lives.
These organizations, which more than 17,000 Marylanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities depend on for essential services that enable them to live and work in the community, fear potential budget cuts as Governor Hogan tries to deal with budget shortfalls brought about by the pandemic.
Ironically, the potential budget cuts could come just months after the restoration of a 4 percent increase for I/DD community services in Maryland’s FY21 budget. The 4 percent funding increase was mandated through the Minimum Wage bill passed last year as a way to ensure Medicaid providers would hold ground as employee pay rates increased.
Obviously, the pandemic has had a devastating impact on every facet of our society. The provider organizations have been hard hit, with added costs required for needed supplies (personal protective equipment, cleaning materials, facility costs, etc.) and hazard pay for their essential health care workers. The costs have continued to pile up without adequate relief funding from the state to offset them. With modest annual service funding increases from the state in the past, these organizations have struggled mightily to keep pace with the rising costs associated with delivering required services and maintaining adequate staffing.
Now, the cost of dealing with the pandemic, coupled with skyrocketing service and staffing costs, an anticipated reduction in corporate and individual donations, and potential state funding cuts, may leave many of these organizations with little choice but to limit whom they can support. And for some, they may have to close their doors permanently.
Reducing or closing services would mean a lack of access to residential services, day program services, and employment supports for countless citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Maryland. Many families of people with disabilities rely on these services for their loved ones. And without a caregiver to support their adult child during typical working hours, many parents would be unable to hold their own jobs.
Beyond that, closure would reverse many of the positive gains that have been achieved by Maryland’s disability community over the past few decades. Successful efforts to close state institutions, increase inclusion, and advance community participation and employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are on the line, overturning years of progress, if community services are no longer available as a lifeline for so many.
The bottom line is this: Maryland has an obligation to care for citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Disability service organizations provide supports and services that otherwise would have to be provided by the state government at a higher cost to taxpayers, and with poorer results for the people who use them.
We call on Governor Hogan, Comptroller Franchot, and Treasurer Kopp to not send us back in time and to do the right thing. We should not balance the budget on the backs of people with developmental disabilities and their families. Save funding for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Ande Kolp is the executive director of The Arc Maryland; Laura Howell is executive director of The Maryland Association of Community Services and Ken Capone is public policy director for People on the Go Maryland.