Unless the Senate restores these funds in their budget, DHS WILL make the system of services collapse
Late last week, we learned that the Department of Human Services' (DHS) took up their own jackhammers to the system of IDD services. On Monday, the House approved a budget for DHS that includes extraordinary cuts of $168M for the IDD waiver system, from the budget proposed by Governor Shapiro. Unless the Senate acts to restore funds, the system WILL collapse immediately, requiring years of recovery with the most vulnerable individuals at the greatest risk of the worst outcomes.
This collapse will resemble that of an Iowa apartment building earlier this year: some will die; many more will be left with nowhere to go; and it will have occurred after officials ignored warning signs for years. And there are differences: this collapse will be felt across Pennsylvania, and will affect tens of thousands. The biggest difference? This collapse may not generate the same kinds of headlines, because adults with IDD and their families are one of the most overlooked underserved groups in the country.
We are just beginning to try to understand how this happened. This is what we think we know so far, and what you can to.
How does DHS justify these cuts to the Governor's proposed budget? We already understand from informal conversations with DHS officials that the cuts are the result of decreased utilization. In other words, DHS is projecting at least $168M less in expenses this coming year because families spent at least $168M less than expected this past year (since then, we have clarified that they actually spent $234B less). But families spent less than expected because of decreased service capacity and high vacancy rates for DSPs, both of which were caused by DHS's refusal to raise wages for DSPs. So after failing to raise wages paid to DSPs to address decreased service capacity, DHS now cites decreased utilization as justification for further cuts of at least 6%. This also suggests that there are fundamental flaws in how DHS projects future needs, especially given the overwhelming evidence presented to lawmakers and state officials pointing to imminent collapse of the system of services.
Here are other questions we hope to find answers to in the coming days.
Were House lawmakers aware of these cuts the the budget proposed by the Governor when they approved the budget? We do not know, but will try to find out?
Were advocates informed of these pending cuts? No. We understand that advocates and providers were shocked when they learned of the proposed budget.
Were these cuts the result of pressure by Governor Shapiro or the House to cut overall spending? No. The actual budget approved by the House on Monday included an increase of over $900M over the Governor's proposed $44B budget.
Were these cuts part of pressure specifically by DHS to reduce its costs? No. DHS promoted its original budget proposal in April as bringing more benefits to PA residents, with a $2.7B increase over a $19B budget
Were there other places where funds for adults with IDD were increased? Yes, but we believe that these are marginal relative to the $168M cut. Governor Shapiro's original budget did add $17.5M to serve an additional 750 people in the Community Living Waiver and an additional 100 individuals in the Consolidated Waiver. It also included about $120 million in additional funds to sustain pandemic era supports once federal dollars are used up.
Taken together, it appears that services for adults with IDD were singled out for cuts, while funding for other services was maintained or increased. We will post more as we learn more. In the meantime, click on our Take Action tab to find the emails and phone numbers, of our elected officials you can reach out to today