The Budget deal is done. What's in it for us?
A letter from ARCA (Association for Regional Center Agencies)
Yesterday, the Legislature voted on next year's Budget - which goes into effect July 1, 2019. The bottom line? We got a little bit, but not as much as we need.
First, the good news. Legislative leaders are becoming ever more willing to say that our system needs their help. In statements made just before the final votes, several legislators explicitly acknowledged our issues.
Assemblymember Jim Frazier stated something we all agree with - "we have to acknowledge that we aren't doing enough."
Asm. Chris Holden was "happy to see the rate increases." However, he added, "we must finish the work begun with the rate study by implementing true rate reform."
Assembly Budget Committee Chair Phil Ting joined in by saying "it's not enough; it's not what they need. But it's a huge down payment for the future."
And Senator Budget Committee Chair Holly Mitchell also noted the increased funding for our system in her remarks.
This funding includes an extra $50 million per year beyond what Gov. Newsom originally proposed. Initial estimates were that most providers would receive an 8.2% rate increase. A few would get a smaller increase, and some would not see any increases. In an effort to strike the right balance with the dollar amounts available, this proposal may change after further discussions. These all end on December 31, 2021. Additionally, the Uniform Holiday Schedule will be delayed until January 1, 2022.
However, there's good news. When the May 2021 Budget estimates are developed, if the state hits certain surplus funding levels, both the funding and Holiday sunsets will be delayed. We're still looking at the specifics of what those levels are.
And this summer, the Department of Developmental Services will start conversations with stakeholders about long-term system reform. They'll update the Legislature on this during the 2020 Budget hearings.
But there's a flip side.
Social recreation and camp are not being restored. ARCA has long pushed for these low-cost, high-value services to be brought back, particularly since they disproportionately benefit diverse communities.
Half-day billing will remain in effect, even though it penalizes providers for attendance issues outside their control.
And the local minimum wage quirk will not be fixed, meaning providers subject to local minimum wages still cannot access state funds to meet those costs.
We know our system needs major support from the Legislature and the Governor. Providers struggle to hire and retain qualified staff, and expand their operations to meet growing needs. Regional centers' service coordinators strive to give people the individual attention they need despite overwhelming caseloads. And most critically, individuals with developmental disabilities and their families justly demand that our system better fulfill the promise of the Lanterman Act.
With your continued advocacy, our representatives continue to learn why over 330,000 Californians and their families matter. They become more willing to fight to support us. And bit by bit, we move towards meaningful system reform. It's not fast enough, and it's not far enough, but without you, there would be no movement.