State Budget Impasse Impacts Services for Elderly, Blind and Disabled
The budget stalemate in the Legislature is preventing some programs from receiving state funds, impacting services for hundreds of thousands of elderly, blind and disabled Californians, the Los Angeles Times reports (Tamaki, Los Angeles Times, 8/20). Lawmakers so far have not reached an agreement on a budget plan for fiscal year 2002-2003 that would offset a $23.6 billion shortfall. Republicans have said that they would not vote for a budget that increases taxes but rather want a budget that would make more than $7 billion in reductions, including cuts for some health services (California Healthline, 8/8). Democrats, however, want to raise taxes to cover the state's deficit. The Legislature's budget plan was due by July 1 (Los Angeles Times, 8/20). To date, there has been no sign of a resolution on the budget impasse, the Sacramento Bee reports (Hill, Sacramento Bee, 8/20). The following highlights the impact the budget impasse is having on some residents:
- About 384,000 elderly, blind and disabled residents have not received their housing subsidies, which average about $302 a year and generally are sent out in July or August after the new budget is approved. The payments reimburse property taxes paid by residents who earn up to $37,119 per year and are blind, disabled or over age 62. The budget impasse has prevented the release of of about $116 million in claims.
- The state has not made payments to the 21 regional centers that oversee care for people with developmental disabilities (Los Angeles Times, 8/20). Although most of the centers have borrowed from banks to cover two months of operations, the banks are unwilling to lend additional funds (Mendel, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/20). If the not-for-profit facilities do not receive state support, they could close by mid-September, disrupting care for about 170,000 people, the Sacramento Bee reports. Meanwhile, the facilities are notifying families and providers that they cannot cover the cost of care unless a budget is approved (Sacramento Bee, 8/20).
Unless lawmakers reach an agreement on the state budget, "community health clinics and child-care centers [will] head toward bankruptcy ... and the elderly and disabled will find key programs they need put on hold," Yolanda Burruel, co-chair of the San Diego Organizing Project, writes in a San Diego Union-Tribune opinion piece. Assembly members who have said they would support funding cuts to services for the poor, elderly and disabled rather than increasing taxes are "out of step" with the public, she adds. According to Burruel, residents would be willing to pay more in taxes to prevent "massive cuts" in health services. She cites a poll released by the California HealthCare Foundation that indicated 94% of voters favor a tax hike to avoid "major cutbacks in health services" for low-income and disabled residents. She also criticizes the budget approved by the Senate because it would cover the deficit by borrowing against future tobacco settlement payments. "It's time for regular people to get involved. It's time for the Legislature to get over political bickering and pass a budget," Burruel concludes (Burruel, San Diego Union- Tribune, 8/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.