(Updated 12:20 p.m.) HARTFORD, CT — With nowhere else to go Wednesday, an estimated 250 disability advocates, employees, and clients descended on the state Capitol where they pleaded with lawmakers to pass a two-year budget that funds their services.
It’s the second time in two months that nonprofit organizations that serve the developmentally and intellectually disabled community will be required to take a furlough day. That means their clients won’t be receiving services and their families won’t be able to go to work because they have to stay at home to care for them.
State funding for these nonprofit organizations was cut as part of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s executive order. The recently revised order did restore about $40 million in state funding for the nonprofits, but the ability of some of these organizations to keep their doors open dwindles by the day.
Even with the restoration of the funding in the revised executive order the nonprofit community as a whole is still operating with $150 million less than it would with a budget in place, according to Gian-Carl Casa, executive director of the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance.
“Nonprofit funding remains $150 million below FY17 levels, putting thousands of programs in jeopardy,” Casa said. “Connecticut’s residents are in this together and we all need a budget that fully addresses the state’s budgetary needs including human services and education.”
Democratic and Republican lawmakers attended the rally to show their support for the intellectually and developmentally disabled community. However, they proved in their remarks that they are still far apart on a solution.
Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, said it’s not enough to ask your legislators to vote for a budget.
“You need to ask your legislators if they’re willing to vote for a budget that raises revenue,” Abercrombie said. “Because the reality is there’s no more cuts to be made.”
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said “the passion you have for your cause is compelling.” He said the advocacy has lead them to pass more bipartisan legislation for the I/DD community in recent years.
He said caring for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities is a “core service,” and “core services must rise to the top.”
“We cannot cut these services. We need to fund these services. We need to keep them as a high priority because those are the services that need the help,” Fasano said.
Win Evarts, executive director of the Arc of Connecticut, said he’s worried the current budget impasse will have a “significant impact” on his son’s life.
“Each day that goes by without a budget puts an already chronically underfunded system of community supports at risk and will result in decreased services for individuals with intellectual disability, staff layoffs and eventually, closure of community programs,” Evarts said.
If the budget battle drags on until November then there’s expected to be a large cut in funding to residential services for this population. Currently, it’s only impacting community programming.
Parents of disabled adult children also worry about what happens to their children when the parents, their long time advocates and caregivers, die.
Jennifer Botwick and her son Jacob of New Haven said they don’t want to lose his supports, which allow him to participate in society. .
“The only thing he has that we don’t is Down syndrome,” Mrs. Botwick said. “He’s a high school graduate, he’s an Eagle Scout, he’s a student at an occupational transitional program in New Haven, and he holds a part-time job in one of the best pizza restaurants in New Haven.”
But “I’m not going to be here forever,” Mrs. Botwick said. “He needs support and life skills and like all of our kids deserves a future with support and independence.”
Joe Duffy, a parent of a daughter who relies on the services provided by the nonprofit community, said they shouldn’t have to live “crisis to crisis, minute to minute. We’re full citizens.”
Mickey Herbst, who was speaking on behalf of his daughter Jenna, said Connecticut is at a point where it’s “difficult to raise taxes, it’s difficult to control the cost of revenues and who is suffering and on whose backs are they doing it? Jenna are they doing it on your back? You bet they are.”
The Westport resident said they have to keep coming to Hartford to make noise and get the governor and the legislature to pay attention. He said he’s been doing it for 40 years and they’ve made some progress, but every time they go up two steps they fall back one and “we’re at a point where we’ve fallen back more than one.”