Disabilities agencies express relief, for now

Among those busloads making Springtime field trips to the Statehouse are local leaders who have more than history on their minds. Springtime means budget time  and the upcoming state spending plan may be one of the most closely watched in history.
Local leaders are travelling to Columbia this week to plead their cases with legislators -as items like disability services, schools and prescription drug coverage face drastic cuts.
Brent Parker,executive director of the Greenville County Disabilities and Special Needs Board says his group came to Columbia this morning because the Ways and Means Committee’s first budget proposal slated the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs to receive a $47 million reduction. “What that meant for us in Greenville and other providers around the state was that all services would have been eliminated except for residential. So, it would have been a devastating experience for people who receive our services,” Parker says.
The House moved quickly to use $200 million in expected stimulus funds to fill that holes in the budget. Parker says the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs can use this money to generate more Medicaid money for the state.
He says,”You get a three-to-one match for every one state dollar, you can draw down three Medicaid dollars, or in some cases with the stimulus money, four federal dollars. So the total impact was $110 million to $120 million, so that’s quite a devastating blow.”
For local disabilities services, the trip to lobby legislators quickly became a thank-you visit, for now.