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Disability Cuts Could Be Here To Stay


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As sweeping federal budget cuts set in, the impact is starting to become clear for those benefiting from special education and other disability programs.

President Barack Obama issued an order late Friday instituting what’s known as sequestration, a process of deep spending cutbacks that was triggered when Congress failed to reach a budget deal in 2011. While both Democrats and Republicans insisted that they did not want to see sequestration take effect, the parties were not able to reach a deal to avert the cuts.

Accordingly, some $85 billion will be trimmed from this year’s federal budget, touching nearly all military and domestic programs. Funding will be reduced for numerous initiatives benefiting those with disabilities including special education, housing assistance, employment supports, mental health services and research. Medicaid and Social Security benefits are some of the few areas to be spared.

Disability advocates say it will be a matter of time before the full impact of the cuts is known, but some of the fallout is beginning to surface. Officials at Easter Seals say they’re hearing that the state of Georgia has already used up all of its vocational rehabilitation funds expected for this year, for example.

And that may just be the tip of the iceberg, according to Katy Neas, senior vice president of government relations at Easter Seals.

“(Families) need to plan for some services and supports that they currently have to not be available to them. There’s going to be a real cut, and with cuts there are consequences,” she said.

A fuller picture will likely emerge in the coming weeks and months, advocates say, depending on how each program is funded. Some programs receive regular payments from Uncle Sam throughout the year, while most school funding is distributed on an annual basis meaning that cuts from sequestration are expected to alter budgets that will take effect in July.

In the case of special education, Obama administration projections show that about $600 million will be cut from the program this year, putting the jobs of 7,200 teachers, aides and other staff in question. Sequestration is coming right as school districts are preparing their budgets and parents are likely to start hearing this spring at individualized education program, or IEP, meetings about changes in store for next year, according to Lindsay Jones of the Council for Exceptional Children, which lobbies on behalf of special educators.

“I don’t know that you’ll see an immediate impact, which is hurting our ability to explain this need to Congress to deal with this situation,” she said.

For the moment, at least, there’s no sign of relief in sight. Neas from Easter Seals said she met with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Monday who indicated that he expected sequestration to remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

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Comments (24 Responses)

  1. Leoma says:

    I fail to see how a 2% decrease in the increase in spending can cause so many cuts. Maybe my math isn’t very good. I think this may be some sensationalism on the part of Democrats. We all know that there is a lot of waste in government spending that can be cut without hurting the truly needy and disabled.

  2. Donnie Black says:

    Don’t be a Kool-Aide drinker to these lies.

  3. Lynda says:

    Leoma – The problem is that cuts can’t be made strategically with inefficient or outdated programs being eliminated. These cuts hit ALL programs the same whether they are good, bad or indifferent and regardless of who they serve.

  4. marion schneider says:

    I agree with Leoma’s observation. There is a huge amount of waiste and fraud in government so this decrease in the increase of spending on programs is paultry. It is sensationalism by the Dems. Congress should go after the fraud and abuse, they will recoup billions.

  5. LAAdams6 says:

    It’s time for some out-of-the-box thinking to figure out what will make up support for our kids and family members. A good start would be from within our own families!

  6. Cathy says:

    “Accordingly, some $85 billion will be trimmed from this year’s federal budget, touching nearly all military and domestic programs. Funding will be reduced for numerous initiatives benefiting those with disabilities including special education, housing assistance, employment supports, mental health services and research” Perhaps I’m reading this wrong or my math isn’t very good, but it seems to me that cutting $85 billion from the budget will affect people… and not in a good way. Time will tell whether or not this is just democratic sensationalism. Sadly by the time we find out it is not – and I don’t believe it is just BS – it’ll be too late. The damage will have been done.

  7. F Dang says:

    One of the things parents can resort to if the cuts affect Special Education services to their children is to start suing the State they are in under the 504 laws which says that any agency receiving Federal money has to provide services to individuals with disabilities that are comparable to the services they are providing to non disabled individuals. Parents need to band together to nudge the State and Federal governments to provide services to individuals with disabilities. Without out these services the individuals will fall through the cracks and become the future homeless population.

  8. Jack Daly says:

    Jobs, Jobs, Jobs…that’s all you heard during the campaign this past year or more…what does Washington think Voc Rehab is all about ?….

  9. Dee Wheat says:

    Cut off Congress’s payroll and all their benefits until they fix this mess and that will put a stop to it

  10. Jack Lancellotta says:

    Slowing GROWTH of government, must be accompanied by specific, reliant, and moderated trimming of departmental budgets, tax expenditures, subsidies and other ‘loopholes’ that can allow the economy to grow at a broader, larger clip while tempering and minimizing the debt from annual and accumulative budgets and budget procedures.

  11. Tom Blankenhorn says:

    Save $1 trillion per year by cutting 20% of the under-worked, overpaid, bad attitude government employees and pay the remainder at the level of the private sector.

  12. Roberta Gallant says:

    The federal budget cuts suck and stink! People with all types of disabilities should not suffer
    severe funding cuts. The republicans, not the democrats, in the United States Senate and
    House of Representatives always victimize citizens with disabilities. For a change, democrats
    (no more republicans) ought to serve the United States of America because the mistreat
    people with developmental disabilities who receive services and supports.

  13. Bridget says:

    WoW some of the comments are pretty cut throat. Our country’s tone has changed and it is scary. Everyone is out for themselves and not thinking about our fellowman. As a society we should help the less fortunate, by paying taxes- this includes members who have special needs. We must carefully and religiously watch, so funding is not taken away from the less fortunate ( children with special needs, students who can not read, people with mental illnesses) it will happen if we are not diligent watch dogs and then what?….

  14. Stuart Watt says:

    The citizenry of the USA is facing an administration determined to grow government and reshape America. Government controls and taxations couched in “New Speak” terminology is favored. Crushing free enterprise is part of this agenda, therefore, a demagogic approach is favored toward any opposition, resulting in an “I told you so” mentality with the object of building an overwhelming voter base. Don,t be shocked that sequestration was a tool used, and implemented by this present administration, with the sole object of inflicting pain and hardship. Cutting programs which affect the disabled/needy/low income is just the beginning of a much greater goal. Do the citizens of the United States of America really embrace European Values??

  15. RB says:

    Unless I am mistaken, the IDEA is still law. How will districts get away with dismissing needed services they have in a contract (IEP)?

  16. Becky Ottinger says:

    I would like permission to use use this article to share with Kansas City businesses as we are asking them to donate our Me and My World Social Skills Board Games and Curriculum to schools. Our goal is to donate one to every school in the KC metro area. This article really gets to the point about schools not having funds. School professionals are calling to say they want these but can’t afford them. Thanks.

  17. Milton Blackstone says:

    One way to help relieve the budget potential budget cuts without any effect on the economy is to remove all restrictions on use of Special Needs funds parents/family members have accumulated for their Special Needs child and doing away with the Crummy Letter imposition. Also, reviving a bill that was introduced and never passed (as far as I know) that permitted similar use w/o having to create SNT’s to assist in their future needs. Let’s make this a campaign and send our Congressional representative letters asking them to support the above.

  18. NICOLE LEBLANC says:

    Congress should stop these adgredious Budget Cuts! We need to raise taxes by 57% and End all war funding and Cut the Pentagon,Militarry , Defence, Homeland Security by 70% eeach . Also Congress should take a 7% pay Cut and end all pork barrel projects to deal with this crisis. NO more budget cuts in disability services.
    We want tax hikes Not Budget Cuts

  19. Gail Harris Perez says:

    The impact of the sequstration will definitely have a impact on our special eduation program in the United States Virgin Islands. We receive funding each July and it is difficulty to actually determine what innovative special education programs and stafff will have to be cut. As Director for Special Services in St. Croix, I hope that level heads prevail and our members or congress understand the impact their decisions will have on students with disabilities.

  20. Ann Tonina says:

    I work in education and the class sizes are already too big. There are no supplies. Special Ed teachers are hard hit because they have to buy expensive specialized supplies. There is no waste going on, that is hype. We will pay more money in the long run in more homelessness and criminality.

  21. Ashley Parker says:

    Leoma- I would maybe do a little basic research on federally funded programs like the Medicaid waiver program that funds services for adults with developmental disabilities across states. Federal cuts removes even more money from tightened, anemic state budgets who almost certainly will have already cut DD services- that’s a trend across the country over the last decade, even in the wealthiest states like MD with robust service delivery systems compared to other states. Less state money then means less local money. These programs are formulated to match one input to a certain percentage, by law, so when the federal money is cut, the cuts cascade down and become a bigger impact to actual people than what Fox News, CNN, Republicans or Democrats would like to tell you. Not to mention, as cited before, the cuts hit every program, every department, everywhere, by law. Sequestration will not allow for agency directors like Sebelius with HHS to pick & choose where the money comes out of.

  22. treese says:

    somebody should audit special education – known abuse and mismanagement.

  23. Shelley Reilly says:

    I don’t see how you people can’t see that this is critical for our children and how they are taught. I have grand children who without IEP’s they would be lost. Maybe all your children are doing well in school and for that we are grateful, but mine struggle with reading etc. You would be cruel to not believe this is not a Dem or Rep propaganda, this is the truth and it is bad. I am disabled myself and the cuts will go deep. I worked hard all my life and then an injury and sickness and I was done. Do you want me to suffer also for your inability to work together? I will post my vote to rid us of all the ones who want this to happen. Don’t be cruel, look at the facts. You may be there next

  24. Dona P says:

    I recently moved to Ga. and was very excited about having my son, who is currently on SSI, able to take advantage of the Roosevelt Warm Springs Vocational Rehabilitation Program there: they have a wonderful training program that helps with independent living skills, Vocational Training, etc. All to help him become self-sustaining and a contributing member of society….Unfortunately, the political powers-that-be have cut funding; so now what? My story isn’t the worse I’ve heard and I’m sure there are plenty more. I’d love to read any from those who are willing to share.

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