Funds for Services for Individuals with Autism are at Risk
The Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, along with other state leaders, are predicting a $54 billion budget deficit as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 public health crisis in the state. The deficit comes from an unexpected decline in tax revenues that will be coming into the state treasury due to reduced incomes and income tax collections, lower sales taxes, and reductions in other revenue sources like hotel, gas and similar taxes. Coupled with more than 4.2 million unemployment claims filed since COVID-19 hit, the numbers are staggering and in stark contrast to the $21 billion surplus California had just one year ago.
Cuts to Services for Autism are Possible
In response to the predicted deficit, leaders in California are considering a revised budget that will guide future spending for the state. The good news is that the version of the budget in review right now doesn’t impact people with autism or other developmental disabilities in a negative way. But it is still possible that the revised budget – once finalized – will include significant reductions in payment rates offered to behavioral therapy, respite care and other service providers contracted with local regional centers for services they deliver to individuals and families impacted by autism. This is troubling because a reduction in payment rates for these services could mean less services available to consumers and families.
What Can Be Done to Help Preserve These Important Services?
There are a few things that can be done to help make sure funding for essential services for those affected by autism and other developmental disabilities continues.
First and foremost, between now and June 30th, Governor Newsom has the power to make last-minute cuts to the budget. So, if you agree that maintaining this funding is important, you can reach out to Governor Newsom to let him know how you feel. Here’s how you can ensure your voice is heard at the State level:
1. Go to the Governor’s website at https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/ to send an email, or call him directly at 916.445.2841.
What do you say? Your message can be very simple, but feel free to make it personal . . .
“I am a resident of California and I strongly support a budget that protects the developmental disabilities service system and its funding.”
That’s it. Your voice has been heard.
Secondly, any cuts that are in the final version in the State budget could be offset by federal funding. In fact, the federal government is considering the provision of additional funding for states, which could prevent hundreds of millions of dollars from being cut from the service delivery system nationwide. California will definitely benefit if federal funds are made available.
If you believe that maintaining funding for these essential services is important, you can take action now to let your member of congress know how you feel. Here’s how you can ensure your voice is heard at the Federal level:
1. If you aren’t sure who your representative is, go to https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative and enter your zip code.
2. Once you identify your representative, you may need to do a little sleuthing to determine how to best communicate with him or her. It may take some time and effort on your part to get this done, but it’s worthwhile to ensure your representative knows you want to be sure funding for services continues to be available.
- Some representatives offer a link to a form you can fill out and submit online. This is the easiest way to communicate, if this option is available.
- Some representatives offer a phone number to their local office or their office in Washington, DC. If you try to reach them at one of these numbers, be aware that you aren’t likely to have the opportunity to speak with someone when you call. But that’s okay. Just leave a voicemail message when prompted to do so.
- Some representatives only offer the main number for the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. If you call this number, the operator can help direct your call to your representative. If you don’t get to speak with someone directly, just leave your message when prompted.
- Other representatives may offer other ways to communicate.
What do you say? Again, your message can be very simple, but feel free to make it personal . . .
“I am a constituent of the Representative. Please support extra federal funding for California to help save services for people with autism and developmental disabilities. And please ask your colleagues in the Senate to support it, too.”
That’s it! You’ve just asked your representative for the funds that will help support essential services, and you’ve told them you also want them to encourage their colleagues to this funding as well.
Note: Article originally published 6/10/20 – Updated 6/19/20.