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Advocates for Missourians living with disabilities urge state to not cut funding

Paraquad and other advocates were hoping for an 18% increase to offset cuts in 2017, but two cuts totaling 7.5% are being discussed by state reps instead

ST. LOUIS — As state lawmakers look to make cuts that would make day-to-day life for Missourians with disabilities harder, advocates are looking to the community for support.

Paraquad and other Independent Living Centers which help Missourians with disabilities live on their own are asking that you call your local state representative and tell them to vote no on HB 10 Section 10.810.

Sarah Schwegel is one of the many resilient Missourians with disabilities living alone.

“I have a needy cat that demands attention, I hang out with friends and cook,” she said. “Pretty much anything a 27-year-old does.”

All of this was made possible with the proper support. Consumer Directed Services helps pay for healthcare and services so Missourians like Schwegel can go about their daily lives. Without adequate funding, life would look much different.

“I would not be able to live independently in my own home,” Schwegel said. “I would have to go into a nursing home. I'm 27 I don't want to go in a nursing home.”

Especially not something she wants to do during a pandemic.

Schwegel works full-time at Paraquad. Her organization and other advocates were hoping for an 18% increase to offset cuts in 2017. Instead, two cuts totaling 7.5% are being discussed by state reps.

“To have the governor not only send one but two cuts down the pipeline hurts,” she said.

Sarah needs an in-home caretaker for critical needs such as bathing and using the restroom. She said finding help is becoming harder as more in-home healthcare workers are leaving the field for higher-paying, “easier” jobs.

“I have had a lot of turnover,” Sarah said. “Some of the people I have had went to work in retail, fast food or at a local gym.”

Governor Mike Parson is advocating for the cuts. His office released this statement saying:

“If an independent living center provides home- and community-based services, they would receive a market rate decrease as provided by a recent report on the costs of home and community-based services. That decrease would then help fund other portions of home- and community-based services that are currently paid below-market rate. The goal is to make sure that everyone is paid his/her fair share of market-rate – not more, not less.

Kimberly Lackey, Paraquad’s Senior Director of Programs responded:

"The Mercer report is more than two years old.

The report also uses out-of-date numbers to calculate their rates and does not account for the increased minimum-wage we are experiencing currently and will continue to for the next two years.

In addition, Missouri CDS rate and reimbursement rate is calculated in a way that is different from all other states. This is a complicated point to explain but it is basically like comparing apples and oranges. Finally, our state budget is currently experiencing a major influx of money pouring into the state due to several COVID relief bills, the most recent of which will funnel millions of dollars to Missouri specifically for home- and community-based services like CDS. There is more than enough money to pay providers enough so personal care attendants can be paid a competitive market rate.

I would also stress to look beyond the numbers and an outdated report to the actual impact the current program rates are having on the people trying to receive services. We know that people are struggling to hire and retain attendants and we know the impact this is going to have.”

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