Friday, February 06, 2009

Senate Debates Disability Portions of Stimulus Bill

I am so frustrated right now I could scream. The economic stimulus bill is before the Senate as we speak. It's being picked apart and the things being cut out of it are the things that would make it possible for the 54.4 million people with disabilities in this country to be part of the engine for recovery, now and into the future.

Item #1: Vocational Rehab $$$. There is 50-70% unemployment in the disability population. ANY percentage of this population that goes to work can only help the country.

Item #2: Medicaid $$ and SSI $$. This pays for the services and the healthcare that adults with disabilities, veterans and elders need to live. Many of the people who get the care they need can then get jobs and contribute (see item #1.) And this money, of course, employs entire industries.

Item #3: IDEA funding. This is so important on so many fronts and it looks like it has been cut already. First of all, it is the tendency of school districts to see the educating of kids with disabilities as a nice thing they do when times are good. This attitude has led to sporadic compliance with education laws around the country with obvious consequences (see item #1.) In the immediate, IDEA funding employs educators and gives SOME incentive for schools to continue to support kids with disabilities in this lean time. And of course, what happens in the schools this year will determine the ability of people with disabilities to contribute to our economy when our children grow up. We can educate our kids now or our (non-disabled) kids can support them when they grow up...

I have been on the phones for the past 2 days. I got through to Sen. Gillibrand's office, but have not been able to reach Sen. Shumer's. I hope people are paying attention to their own senators' behaviors. If you do not like what you see your disability groups should make that very clear to them over the next months.

President Obama has given the disability community the opportunity of visibility, mentioning disability in his speeches on election night, at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, and in weekly addresses, and more.

It is up to us to turn that visibility into a presence with credence and influence. Try to get through to your senators today (1-800-473-6711) and make appointments at their local offices next week to share yours and your groups' thoughts about disability policy.

Some helpful references:

Picture from here.


julie said...

Hi, while I appreciate your concern I need to point out a few things. I too have a daughter with multiple disabilities and I am dismayed that the current administration is trying to use the disability community to garner support for much more wasteful spending that will hurt our children much more in the long run rather than help them.

First of all, no funding already in place will be cut. No one is loosing funding.

Second of all, the vocational assistance is only to revamp the vocation offices, not to help people find jobs. The Medicare money has many stipulations on it that only low income areas and states must match certain criteria to get those funds.

Third, the states have very little say in where the money goes. The feds have mandated everything across the board. This bothers me because what works in New York schools, does not work in Texas schools.

Fourth and probably the most important, is the feds have written the right in the bill to change anything and everything about how the money is spent after the bill gets passed. Just like what happened with the TARP bill. That money was supposed to go to help the homeowners in foreclosure. The feds changed their mind and gave it to the banks.

I wish people would see this for what it is, but they have been manipulated by scare tactics to push through something that will ultimately hurt them. If you want to fight for additional disability funding, fight for individual bills, not one giant one that will never see the disability community anyway.

Although I fear the damage has already been done. It will probably pass, and unfortunately we will all be disappointed that the money was not used as it was originally planned. Thanks for listening.

Terri said...

Amendment 98 to HR 1
Title V – State Fiscal Relief
p. 714
Temporary Increase of the Federal Match (Federal Medical Assistance Program) – provides additional funds for Medicaid services in the states – virtually all adult services are funded by Medicaid.

EmploymentTitle VIII, p.123
$500,000,000 for adult training and employment services including supportive services under 134 (e) (2) and (3) of the Workforce Investment Act

Title VIII, p. 143
Special Education
Carrying out B and C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Social Security
SSI Benefits
Title IV, Subtitle G
Sec. 1601, p. 554
$300 a month payment to each entitled individuals.

All pretty direct help.

Different perspectives...

lynn winter said...

I, too, am the mother of a child with multiple disabilities. I'm actually appalled by the proposed Senate cuts, which a lot of people don't realize will be coming on top of existing state cuts affecting the disability community.

Multiple states have cut their medicaid and IDEA programs, some drastically. In some states, cuts have specifically targeted the supports that enable our family members with special health care needs to stay at home in their communities.

The federal government has left us in this economic mess, and left the states holding the safety net. The states have already been poking holes in that net, and without this necessary influx of federal funds to the states, the net will be gone. We will return to the days when our family members with disabilities are being warehoused and institutionalized. Even worse, people like my child could die.

Big Noise said...

I'm with ya Terri. I just published my rant and clicked to see what you were up to today. It's going around. What a disappointment on this new "liberal" Senate's test of it's commitment to "the people".

sigh-- It won't help, but I think I'm getting drunk tonight.
Love ya,