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Vitale-Sweeney Bill To Ensure Developmentally Disabled Funding Used

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Steve Sweeney which would require that any surplus in federal funds appropriated for developmentally disabled individuals living within our communities go to that purpose was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee by a vote of 6-0.

“This bill would protect funds dedicated to helping our developmentally disabled population in New Jersey from being absorbed into our cash-strapped coffers,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Committee. “Under the federal Community Care Waiver program, New Jersey receives federal dollars to help make life easier for developmentally disabled citizens living in a community setting. While there have not been any overt attempts to grab surplus funds to shore up our State’s finances, we need to clarify into perpetuity that this money should only go to its intended purpose.”

The bill, S-1786, would direct the State Department of Human Services to require all funds received through the Community Care Waiver program, including retroactive reimbursement and surplus funds, to go to programs benefiting New Jersey’s developmentally disabled. The bill would first apply any funds above and beyond the regular fiscal year appropriation to offset any deficits in regards to contracts between the State Division of Developmental Disabilities and community provider agencies, and would appropriate the remaining funds to the Developmental Disabilities Community Infrastructure Fund, a grant program to update and repair residential facilities, and purchase accessibility equipment and assistive technology for the developmentally disabled residents of the State.

“The tools and technology that developmentally disabled people rely on to perform their daily tasks is expensive,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “This new Community Infrastructure Fund will help them afford the equipment and home improvements needed to assist them in everyday life, while making use of federal funds dedicated to help. It’s an enormous win for the developmentally disabled community in New Jersey, allowing residents to achieve self-sufficiency while providing the treatment they need to live with their disability.”

The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, before going to the full Senate for consideration.