Yesterday the Extra Special Session came to an end but not before the passage of House Bill 4.
This legislation will give a major financial grant to two corporations in North Carolina, Bridgestone/Firestone and Goodyear. This bill will appropriate $60 million from the General Fund to the Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund over the next ten years. The first shift of money will appear in the 2008-2009 Fiscal Budget with an appropriation of $5 million dollars. That is $5 million in “new” money for a new grant program.
Yesterday I posed a question: what does this legislation have to do with people with disabilities? Well, here is the answer. DD/MR was faced this session with having to realign money in order to serve our community. Here is what we could have done with $5 million in “new” money.
CAP MR/DD Slots:
$5 million dollars would have provided 330 slots and $10 million dollars in federal matching funds.
Our current budget provided for 300 additional slots using realigned money. We asked for 660 slots. Now here is some interesting math. If we held on to the 300 slots in our realigned budget and received 330 slots in “new” money we would have been able to get 630 CAP slots. This could have fulfilled our request to almost fully fund the 660 waiver slots available for this innovative community program. This would have brought close to $20 million in federal matching funds into our state.
Other Funding Requests:
Our policy agenda requested the following from our State leaders;
· $1.7 million for First in Families to expand statewide. First in Families is a family/consumer management team that creates a best practice support model for families with children who have developmental or intellectual disabilities.
Learn more about First in Families http://www.arcnc.org/services/first_in_families/ or www.fifnc.org
· $2 million in much needed Respite Services
· $1 million in Access to Dental Services (This years budget appropriated $200,000 in non recurring funds for Special Population Dentistry to provide funding for a mobile dental provider to deliver services to the frail elderly and person with disabilities in unserved areas).
$5 million would have covered all of these requests with $300,000.00 remaining to maybe fund the Center for Universal Design in the 2008-2009 fiscal year. This year the Center for Universal Design received $300,000 in non recurring funds for the 2007-2008 fiscal year. Want to know more about the Center for Universal Design? Visit their website at http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/
Or we could have directed the $5 million dollars toward Early Intervention Services. Our policy agenda requested $7 million but $5 million would have gone a long way to help support our community. Early Intervention for children with developmental and intellectual disabilities is critical to families. The earlier we can asses the needs of the child and begin providing developmental services the better the adult outcome.
Then we have housing. In this years budget The Housing Trust Fund requested $50 million dollars to help over 6,000 families. It would have leveraged $200 million more investment in affordable housing each year and would have generated over 3,000 jobs each year. House Bill 4 will hand out up to $60 million over ten years to major corporations and the recipients of these grants are not being asked to generate more jobs. So what would $5 million do for housing people with disabilities in our state? $5 million would equate to at least 50 supported fully inclusive new housing units. 50 more people with disabilities could move into their own homes and become more vested in their communities. (Visit www.nchousing.org for more information on The Campaign for Housing Carolina).
We need to ask our leaders a question this time. Which is the better investment -- creating a $60 million dollar grant program for multinational corporations or investing in people with disabilities that have been waiting a long time for just such a financial commitment?
To get more spin on this issue check out what Chris Fitzsimon of NC Policy Watch had to say about this legislation, http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/cms/?p=10096