In the fiscal year that started last July 1, some $24 million in state and federal funds were cut from programs to assist Rhode Islanders with developmental disabilities. Private nonprofit agencies do most of the work caring for these people. The agencies say that the state could lose $8 million in federal money if the $24 million cut stands. These organizations are doing work much of which would presumably otherwise have to be performed by the state-run system at as much as triple the cost. We should always beware of false economies.
The consensus among the agencies is that $15 million of the cut money should be restored lest more people be laid off and programs closed or slashed. And no one could accuse the compassionate and hard-working folks who work directly with the developmentally disabled of being overpaid. Indeed, many of them are "working poor," with wages in the $8.60-to-$12-an-hour range, with an average of only slightly more than $10. Many have suffered wage cuts during the recession. Meanwhile, state employees get raises.
Lower reimbursement costs, pressure from the agencies and families, and perhaps somewhat higher thananticipated state tax revenues have led the Chafee administration to seek to restore about $9 million to the budget in this fiscal year, which ends June 30. (We'd like to know more about why reimbursement costs fell. Did budget cuts force more efficiency or was it simply slashed services?)
The clients of these programs are, to say the least, very vulnerable. We hope that better ways can be found to address this humanitarian challenge, looking for compassionate but also more efficient approaches, including in other states, of serving this population. Rhode Island, for example, has many nonprofits serving this sector. Should some agencies helping the developmentally disabled be merged? Maybe not, but this should be looked at. And how do administrators' salaries play in all this? There has been a tendency in some non-profits as well many for-profits for the salaries of top people to rise even as those at lower levels are cut. (Our winner-take-all society . . . .)
But administrators' compensation is marginal in this situation, in which it seems clear that much or all of the cuts should be restored. We commend the Chafee administration for addressing the issue.
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RIFuture.org | April 3, 2012Budgeting for Disaster: Cutting the Buddha
Providence Journal | March 20, 2012Reduction in budget cuts eyed
Providence Journal | February 19, 2012Harsh cuts fall on the disabled
Providence Journal | February 14, 2012Rally decries cuts to programs for developmentally disabled
WPRI Channel 12Group holds rally to protest cuts
ABC Channel 6Rhode Islanders Rally to Undo Funding Cuts
Providence Journal | January 25, 2012R.I. must restore aid for disabled
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Providence Journal | January 19, 2012Bills target cuts to social services
Providence Journal | October 12, 2011Thousands protest at State House
Providence Journal | June 24, 2011Protesters decry cuts in social services