Trenton – Acting to provide a financial lifeline to the facilities that care for those who live with developmental disabilities, the Senate today approved legislation that would allocate an additional $180 million to keep the programs and services in place and help the providers survive the health crisis.
Sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Troy Singleton, the bill, S-3323, would allocate the supplemental appropriation to the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health to aid social service providers that are in financial distress due to COVID-19. Serving the vulnerable population of those with developmental disabilities and the elderly, these programs and services face severe financial hardships that threaten their ability to survive the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 crisis has created difficult demands for the programs and services that provide vital care for those who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities and for the elderly,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “The hardships that everyone is experiencing because of the pandemic are even worse for these providers and those they care for. This funding will provide a financial lifeline that will allow them to survive the crisis.”
These providers have been forced to adopt additional safety protocols, experienced decreased enrollment, and have shifted their services to virtual platforms, steps that have imposed more costs and more challenges.
“Those with intellectual and developmental disabilities have always been among the most vulnerable populations in the state. After living with a pandemic for almost a year, things have only gotten more challenging and difficult,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “We need to support the essential services and programs that care for this population, and support their families. Appropriations like these will save both services and lives.”
The additional funding would be used to increase payments for the direct care providers under state contract or for fee-for-service agreements with the state. They include day habilitation programs for those with disabilities and the elderly, childcare providers, behavioral health services, early intervention services and substance abuse programs. These programs and services rely on state support.
“We need to ensure the continued operation of providers who serve the most vulnerable residents in New Jersey in crisis conditions,” said Senator Sweeney. “There is an economic and societal impact as well. Without adequate funding many providers could be forced to close, causing a considerable strain on the network of social services providers and resulting in massive layoffs of workers, many of whom are low-wage earners, women, and minorities.”
Any payment increases provided under this bill are required to be retroactive to all payments issued in FY 2021.
“Our heartfelt thanks to Senate President Sweeney for sponsoring S-3323 at this time and for amending the legislation to include Early Intervention providers who provide life-altering services to infants and toddlers ages 0-3 with a developmental delay or disability,” said Cathy Chin of ABCD-NJ. “ABCD is grateful for the sustained care and concern exhibited by the Senate President, members of the New Jersey Legislature, and the Murphy Administration throughout this pandemic. This bill recognizes the need to ensure that after this ‘storm blows through,’ individuals with developmental disabilities will continue to have the resources to reach their full potential and to have a full life in the community to return to.”
The Senate vote was 34-0.