The Straight Scoop on the 2022 SessionTuesday, June 28, 2022
This issue of our newsletter is a big one. It's the end of session, there was an election on June 7, and there is a lot to cover. Some people want a lot of details. Others just want to know what it means to them. The rest of this newsletter will have the detail, but here we want to cut to the chase.
Things change when people speak up, when they tell their legislators what they need and why. Iowans with disabilities have said they need more choice in community living, they need to know their direct service providers will be there for them, and they do not want their lives on hold while they wait for services. If you look at the things that happened this legislative session, I think you will be pleased.
- More money for direct support staff wages will help keep people in those jobs, so you don't have new workers each week and can rely on them being there for you when you need them.
- More people with intellectual disabilities will be served. Using federal funds, DHS will take an estimated 200 Iowans with intellectual disabilities off the waiver waiting list. Of course we know there is much more to do on this, it costs a lot to reduce the waiting lists for services. The list is too long, and we know DHS is looking at ways to make the waivers more flexible, reduce wait times, and serve more people.
- More money for vocational rehabilitation means more Iowans with disabilities will learn important job skills so they can be employed in their community.
- Children with disabilities will have equal access to special education, no matter where they live in the state. Some schools in the state refuse to provide special education services to children in private schools, which is against the law. No parent should have to take their schools to court in order to get the services for their children.
We know that there are not enough Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) providers in the state, but part of that is there are not enough people to provide the services. Taking people off waiting lists will not guarantee they will get services; you need the people to provide the service and there aren't enough workers now to do the work. The really good news is DHS and the Iowa Legislature are committed to finding a solution. DHS wants to make waivers more flexible, make sure provider rates are enough to make sure services are widely available, and make sure people are paid enough to keep providing those direct services. We hope to talk more about these plans in our Fall newsletter.
On a final note, the Iowa Legislature can only do so much. Your federal elected officials can make some reforms at the federal level, in Congress. For example, combining waivers, requring all states to eliminate all HCBS waiting lists, and making sure funding is available to do this. Congress also provides most of the funding for public transportation, which is also important to making sure people can live in the community.
So make sure to thank your legislators for their work this year, but make sure they know there is much more to be done. Make sure you talk to the people who represent you in Congress (your US Senator, your US Representative). Talk to the candidates who are running for these offices and tell them it's time for action. As we said at the beginning, advocacy works. We have proof in the bills that passed this year, in the stories that were retold during debate. Your story is your superpower. Use it!
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