LENEXA, Kan. — The intellectual and developmental disability community is hoping Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly will change her mind about a funding cut in the 2021 fiscal budget.
The IDD system is made up of providers across the state of Kansas that serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The system was originally slated for a legislature-approved 5% increase in funding that would go into effect July 1.
Melissa Reeves, communications manager for Johnson County Developmental Supports, said providers were angered to learn Kelly cut the additional $8.9 million in state funding from the 2021 fiscal budget due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reeves said the funding would have been matched with federal money, which would have totaled $22 million.
"We've been asking for this for years, and so this 5% increase was just so desperately needed," Reeves said.
JCDS serves about 1,700 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Johnson County. Reeves said the agency is one of 70 others that have been struggling from underfunding and employee retention for years.
"The system is as stretched as it can be," Reeves said. "Whether you're a small provider or a larger provider like JCDS, every single one of us needs that funding."
Reeves said the funding cut shines a light on a bigger issue within the IDD community.
"People who rely on IDD services are frequently left out of the conversation," Reeves said. "When COVID hit, they were already at a higher risk of getting complications from it, and now with not getting the funding that's needed in these agencies that just increases the risk."
Matt Fletcher, executive director of InterHab, which provides services to the IDD community, said he'd like to see Kelly use CARES Act funding to fill the gap.
"We would encourage the governor to look at that or any other mechanism that she has at her disposal to help make these services whole," Fletcher said.
Fletcher said the loss in providers is already prevalent in the state.
"In the Johnson County area between 2014 and 2019, we saw about a 25% erosion in provider capacity," Fletcher said.
The agencies are asking families to urge Kelly to reconsider cutting the funding.
"We've heard about a number of providers who are not sure if they have the funds to keep their doors open over the next few months, and these funds would have been a lifeline to them," Fletcher said.
Kelly's office issued a statement to 41 Action News late Tuesday afternoon, reiterating that the cuts apply only to additional funds the system was slated to receive, not existing funds.
A spokesperson for Kelly said she is "committed to protecting integral services to vulnerable Kansas families."
Governor Kelly is – and has always been -- committed to protecting integral services to vulnerable Kansas families. When she was a state senator, she joined other legislators to foster a 7% rate increase that led to tens of millions of dollars of increases into the IDD system.
Governor Kelly also signed rate increases into law her first two years in office. Altogether, Governor Kelly has fought for or approved millions of dollars in IDD rate increases.
Along with every other state across the nation, Kansas faces unprecedented economic challenges due to COVID-19. While Governor Kelly was presented with many difficult decisions, she was able to preserve critical funding for the foundational building blocks that will help our economy recover like Kansas schools, infrastructure and business recruitment tools.