Dressed in bright yellow t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Protect the Safety Net,” dozens of advocates for adults with disabilities came to the state Capitol Tuesday to speak out against budget cuts.
Carl Noll of Fairfield, the father of two adult sons with developmental disabilities, echoed the concerns of many parents who are worried about the turmoil the proposed cuts could cause for their children.
“We’re perfectly willing to create a bond for the University of Connecticut, my alma mater, for $1.5 billion…but we can’t provide beds for people like my son,” Noll said. ”We’re cutting back the budget of [the department of developmental services.]”
A coalition of non-profit human service providers organized the gathering to call attention to $39.4 million is proposed cuts. The bulk of those reductions were made by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy late last year to offset the state budget deficit and are now poised to become permanent in the proposed 2014-15 spending plan.
Many of the private not-for-profit human service workers have not had a pay raise for years, said Stan Soby, vice president of community programs at Oak Hill in Hartford, which provides educational and other services to people with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities, including visual and hearing impairments.
That has led to high turnover among the staff, which creates turbulence for the people they serve, said Pauline Bouffard of Meriden, who has two children with developmental disabilities. Her 43-year-old daughter has a food service job and likes to go out and get her nails done. She lives in a group home run by ARC of Meriden-Wallingford.
Bouffard’s 38-year-old son is non-verbal, has a seizure disorder and wears a leg brace. He also lives in an ARC group home but requires assistance with every aspect of daily living, Bouffard said. “To him the consistency of the staff is so important,” she said. “He can’t take care of himself and I want to make sure people people understand the importance of this.”
Noll said he has had many meetings with his elected representatives to express his concerns. “They all agree with you, they all sympathize with your cause and then the cutbacks still occur,” he said. “The appropriations committee just backed what Gov. Malloy did…but the safety net is suffering and it is suffering big time.”
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney was one of a handful of lawmakers to attend the event. He said the private, non-profit providers can provide services far more efficiently than the state can.
“When were looking at consistent budget deficits, when were looking at high unemployment, when we’re looking at high taxes, something has to change,” said McKinney, a Republican from Fairfield. ”Rather than cutting the safety net, rather than cutting services, we can change the delivery model and we can save $350 to $500 million a year by the state getting out of the business and properly funding your organizations.”
The crowd cheered McKinney’s comments.