Cuts, Cuts and More Cuts
Sitting before the Florida House and Senate right now are two separate budgets. The House budget cuts funding for the Florida Medicaid waiver system for providers by 10% across the board, while the Senate budget plan has a 6% across the board budget cut. I just don’t get it.
It doesn’t take a Rhode’s Scholar to know that the Florida economy is hurting. Tourism is down, because people don’t have the money to take vacations. Home sales are dropping, because the housing boom that was has come and gone. Unemployment is at record highs- 14% in our county alone- and the end doesn’t seem to be in sight.
So what do the elected officials in this great state propose? The Florida Congress is trying to use federal match monies (FMAP) that come to the state from the federal government for developmentally disabled clients to reallocate those monies for other projects that are lacking funding. Taking the money from those who have no way of supporting themselves is not only absurd, it’s immoral and unethical.
The proposed reductions to the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver could potentially cost 2,000 or more employees their jobs across the state, many of them receiving minimum wage. Additionally, if 10% HCBS rate cut occurs, currently before the Senate, potentially 350 service provider agencies across the state may have to close their doors. The funding currently for HCBS is $112 million below the rates in ’07-’08, so those that have stayed open are doing so by the skin of their teeth. Another cut could be devastating to the developmentally disabled population in our state and the service providers assisting them every day.
I just keep going back to that beautiful January day when President Obama came to Tampa and gave $1.25 billion to Governor Charlie Crist out of the Economic Stimulus plan. The money was designated to go toward areas of need currently faced by the state. It was awarded specifically to tout Florida as being on the cutting edge of alternative transportation options so that we could have high speed rail from Tampa to Orlando. The President came here that day with a “check” for roughly 16% of the overall price tag of $8 billion for the project claiming new jobs would be created. Well what about doing things to help save some other jobs like those of the staff at group homes and service providers for the disabled?
Florida is facing a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall over the next year, so accepting a grant for something that we can’t pay for is irresponsible. It’s also ridiculous to think that it is happening right when our state’s most vulnerable citizens’ funding is being cut drastically. We’ll hold our breath over the next few days as the congress continues to debate the budget and only hope and pray that they don’t cut, cut and cut again, again!