HARTFORD, CT — Nearly 500 advocates, family members, and clients gathered on the north steps of the state Capitol to ask legislative leaders to pass a budget that funds services for their community.
It’s at least the third and largest rally the coalition of community providers has held since July when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s executive order went into effect.
Since the last rally, Malloy has revised the executive order to give the nonprofit community $40 million in funding. That funding postponed the scheduled September furlough day for service providers who receive money from the Department of Developmental Services. Three others are still scheduled for future months.
And while the funding was appreciated, collectively that segment of the community is still operating with $150 million less than they did the previous year.
Barry Simon, president and CEO of Oak Hill, which operates day programs and group homes for the developmentally disabled, said the cuts to the nonprofit community are much deeper than they are for the municipalities.
Simon said they’ve already closed four group homes and ended two day programs.
“With each passing month, I’m asking what other programs we can cut,” Simon said.
“Proportionally the cut to our budget is greater than what it’s going to be for municipalities and we don’t have the option of increasing our mill rate. We can only cut programs and lay off staff,” he added.
Lois Nitch’s son was one of the residents whose group home was closed. She said never in her wildest dreams did she believe she would have to start from scratch again searching for housing for her son.
“Andy’s group home closed and the four young men who lived together for 18 years were split up,” Nitch told the crowd.
They were able to find housing, but they had to meet all new staff and doctors. She said at 52 years old it was like he was starting all over again.
She was preaching to the choir.
“People here today are not like Chicken Little claiming the sky is falling. Real harm happens when the budget is cut,” Gian-Carl Casa, president and CEO of the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance, said. “Real harm happens to human beings when there is no budget.”
Many in the crowd were families and employees who care for those family members.
Simon, who has attended all the rallies for services, said he doesn’t believe their voices are being heard. He said there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency among the politicians to get the job done.
“It’s time for a final state budget and it’s priority should be funding services for the people who need them,” Casa said.
He said every day that goes by there are more program reductions and more layoffs.
“We are closer every day to harm to our communities,” Casa said.
Legislative leaders were meeting behind closed doors to review various budget proposals. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said they’ve given themselves eight days to finalize a budget they plan to vote on next week.
Casa said they’re urging lawmakers to meet daily if possible to get the job done.
“We need a budget that reflects the bipartisan values of our state,” Casa added.
It’s still unclear whether Democrats in the legislature will end up negotiating with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and passing a partisan budget, or if they will work with Republican legislators on a bipartisan budget.