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December 6, 2012

PUBLIC FORUM: Lawmakers should restore funding

The recent announcement by Gov. Daniels that the state will return $111 to each Hoosier taxpayer has been greeted with enthusiasm by most folks in the area. While I have appreciated the fiscal restraint that let to this outcome, this payout is not without serious consequences that are largely hidden from view.

In 2008, the current administration made dramatic cuts to social services. education and many other programs. We all understood that our state had to live within its means and that sacrifices were necessary. I cannot speak to other affected areas, but funding for all services at CDC was trimmed by over 18 percent. This resulted from a combination of direct rate cuts, bureaucratic changes and cancellation of grants. Now the state is slowly recovering, but all indications point to these reductions becoming permanent for those organizations that serve children and adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

This is disheartening for the people we serve and their families because it means that the very low wages paid to our dedicated staff will continue to slide against any increases in the cost of living. Many of our employees make under $9 an hour for work that is difficult and challenging. Turnover of staff has steadily increased in recent years as we had to scale back fringe benefits and were unable to provide raises. The higher turnover combined with less supervision dilutes the quality of services that we strive to provide in the community. It is hard to lose staff members who love their jobs and want to continue to work at the organization but cannot afford to stay because of poor pay. The consumers do not understand why there is a revolving door of caregivers working with them, and families are increasingly frustrated by less flexibility in how consumer service budgets are used.

The state would have been better served if it had gradually restored these funds in step with an improving economy. No policy decisions were made to reduce services for people with disabilities, but that is the net effect. Enabling these individuals to live in their own community, find jobs and have meaningful daytime activities will become increasingly difficult to sustain with each year that elected officials ignore the consequences of underfunded services.

The incoming governor and legislators need to take note of these concerns or all services for individuals with disabilities will continue to decline over time.

Michael Cruz

executive director

CDC Resources Inc.

Monticello

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