The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted every aspect of our lives, and that's certainly true for those in our community with disabilities. For many with disabilities, stability and routine are incredibly important for their overall health, and with the closure of day programs, those routines have been dramatically altered. As we re-open in Massachusetts and plan for the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, these programs who serve individuals with disabilities are still waiting to hear if their much-needed funding will come through. Mayor Gove sent a letter to Governor Baker, urging him to ensure that these programs are funded and these services continue. Read the full text of the letter below.
Deb Plumer, Executive Director of Amesbury's Coastal Connections said, “Individuals with disabilities deserve the right to a life like everyone else. The recent pandemic has upended everyone's lives. Since March 16, 2020, the essential day program services have been closed. Many individuals, who would spend their day at a day program, are now home with family members or group homes. As the state has carefully followed a progressive, data driven re-opening, the day programs are positioning themselves for that same, measured, safe response to re-opening the programs. The day programs will incur exceptional costs such as re-designing physical spaces to address social distancing, installing hand sanitation stations throughout the building, hiring cleaners with expertise in infection control and the continuous expense of PPE. Currently, there is no guidance regarding funding for services as we enter the new fiscal year on July 1. Coastal Connections supports the advocacy of the ARC, the City of Amesbury and all people who support people with disabilities. The day programs need funding in order to continue to provide a much needed infrastructure in the continuum of services offered to people with disabilities in Massachusetts."
June 26, 2020
Charlie Baker, Governor
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Boston, MA 02133
Re: Funding for Services for Adults with I/DD During Re-Opening
Dear Governor Baker,
As Mayor of Amesbury, I write to ask that the Department of Development Services (DDS) receive the necessary resources to support its important work. Adults with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other intellectual and developmental disabilities will lose services if funding and policies don’t meet the requirements for the re-opening period and beyond.
As Fiscal Year 2020 draws to a close, these programs still have no idea of the additional funding available for day and employment programs across the Commonwealth. Re-opening after COVID-19 requires partial attendance, more space between people, smaller groups in vehicles and in buildings, and significant cleaning supplies. These programs are primarily funded by the state, and none of these costs have been allocated. Some agencies are laying off staff, and without new funds, either people will lose services (including delays for those Turning 22) or services will be significantly reduced.
Amesbury’s estimated disability rate, per the U.S. Census Bureau, is higher than others in our region. We need these programs for our residents and their families. I fear that these programs and services will not recover if decisions for additional funds and flexible policies continue to be delayed.
I know that you have many fiscal challenges going into Fiscal Year 2021, however, I hope you can provide adequate funding to address the needs of this vulnerable population.
cc: Senate President Karen Spilka
House Speaker Robert DeLeo