Developmental Disability Providers Worry State Budget Not Enough

By Will Stone
Published: Friday, May 12, 2017 - 5:05am
Updated: Friday, May 12, 2017 - 9:52am

Those who serve people with developmental disabilities in Arizona say the final state budget will likely force some of them to scale back or close down.

Since the beginning of the year, Arizona’s providers for people with developmental disabilities have been scrambling. Many already operate on thin margins. The new minimum wage doesn’t apply to state workers, but it does to these agencies, which the state reimburses for adult day treatment and other services.

Wendy Shaw runs AIRES, one of the larger organizations in the state with more than 800 employees.

Shaw said what was finally included in the budget is not nearly enough.

“Many agencies are going to struggle because the funding allocated was so low and we may see more closures in this industry,” Shaw said.

Nearly 40 percent of providers shut down during the recession, but larger organizations were able to absorb those members. Shaw worries this time "there may end up not being enough capacity in the system to bring folks to other providers."

There’s about a $40 million discrepancy between what the Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities had calculated they needed to cover the ongoing impacts of Proposition 206 and what eventually made it into the budget.

Last year, Gov. Doug Ducey set aside emergency funding to cover the initial wage hike to $10 an hour in January. That same level of funding was annualized in next year's budget and additional state dollars set aside, which then gets multiplied by federal funding.  

Ducey's policy adviser Christina Corieri said that amounts to about a 17 percent increase over last year's rates.

“It’s above and beyond what both the legislative budget office as well as the executive budget office thought necessary to meet the needs of Proposition 206, but we are committed to making sure our network is sound and sufficient and able to provide those services,” Corieri said.

She added that lawmakers have also ordered a study to assess whether more funding will be needed in the future.

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