On November 12th The Arc Alliance, Resources for Human Development and the MAX Association joined together in hosting a legislator discussion with families who have a loved one with special needs. Over 110 individuals representing families and providers of services and support came together with 10 legislators and Aids from Montgomery County to tell their stories of the budget impasse and how it is affecting their family. The legislators heard many examples of how the lack of a budget is impacting their loved one as well as requests for expansion of funding for Human Services in the future.
Several families presented how their children, who graduated from High School this past May have been pushed to the margin because no new individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities are being served due to the absent budget. The impact of this on individuals is immense and catastrophic for families. With no budget these young adults have been sitting at home with no options as their family is pushed to identify care or activities to occupy their time. In many of these families both parents work, having a child at home creates a significant financial burden paying for care, or in some instances forced to take extended time off or quit their job because they have no option.
Individuals with special needs in attendance also took this opportunity to express their frustration, as Chandler Balch, a student at Spring-Ford High School who has cerebral palsy eloquently presented his situation and how the impasse, if not addressed will impact his family. Chandler’s request was for assistance to live a productive life so he is able to give back to his community. Joining Chandler were his grandparents who were brought to tears by his presentation and plea for action. In Chandlers closing he presented a very passionate statement, “it only takes one person to change the world”. (watch Chandler’s presentation)
Paul Stengle, CEO of The Arc Alliance stated, “The most significant thing that took place today was those being impacted (the most vulnerable) and legislators had an opportunity to speak face to face. The budget is not a simple thing to address, and when it’s not personally connected to citizen’s legislators serve, partisanship can trump compromise and action. Today those legislators in attendance heard first-hand the individuals and charitable organizations who are shouldering the burden of this impasse. The time has come to work together, compromise and care for the most vulnerable in our community.”
Legislators in attendance were very respectful to each person’s story listening intently to every word uttered. It was clear that as each person spoke the legislators we busy taking down notes and indicated that they would present these real stories to their fellow legislators. Although they presented rationale for the impasse, the importance of additional revenue to support the budget and the possibility that the budget could be passed in the next weeks it seems that the details each party require can easily derail the entire process. Tax increases, on cigarettes, sales and income were presented but what was glaringly absent was the discussion of closing the 5 state institutions housing 995 individuals but costing hundreds of millions to operate.
The Arc Alliance, MAX and RHD are thankful for the following legislator’s involvement in today’s event. Rep. Kate Harper, Rep. Mathew Bradford, Rep. Tim Briggs, Rep. Pamela DeLissio, Rep. Mary Jo Daley, Sen. Vincent Hughes and staff from Sen. Daylin Leach, Rep. Madeleine Dean and Rep. Robert Godshall offices. We are also very thankful to all the families who took time out of their day to come and present their story. It’s clear that individuals and families can make a difference in Harrisburg if we together unify our voice and demand action. Partisanship must end it is time for action from those we have elected!