Governor’s Budget Slashes Disability Aid

By QUINN BOYLE

MONTPELIER – During his inaugural address, Republican Governor Phil Scott outlined his administration’s key priorities: growing the economy, making Vermont more affordable and, above all, protecting the most vulnerable in the state.

Yet, Gov. Phil Scott’s budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year eliminates a $1.39 million fund that aids disabled Vermonters in hiring home attendants to help with daily needs such as bathing, getting dressed and preparing food.

The Attendant Services Program provides personal care services to adults with severe, permanent disabilities who wish to remain in their homes. While the Attendant Services Program is covered by Medicaid, 43 disabled Vermonters ineligible for Medicaid currently rely on state funding for coverage of the program. These are the people who will be directly affected by Gov. Scott’s budget cut.

Administration officials did not discuss the budget cut when briefing the press on spending plans, and the topic was eluded in Gov. Scott’s budget address. Although the budget cut could go into effect as soon as the new fiscal year begins in July, the Vermonters who will be impacted have not yet been notified.

Monica Hutt, the commissioner of the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, explained the reasoning behind the proposed elimination of the program. Unlike the fund’s Medicaid counterpart, the state’s $1.39 million investment is not backed by federal funding. However, Hutt told Seven Days that the state is not abandoning these 43 Vermonters, and will find other resources to assist them. “We are not looking to hurt people here, so I think we can identify and work to do some gradual transitioning,” she said.

Hutt said the Attendant Services Program has been “frozen for several years,” and as a result the population using the program has dwindled. “We are seeing gradual attrition of that program anyway, and what our hope is… to really look at… those 43 people individually,” she said. Undoubtedly, Gov. Scott’s elimination of this program is controversial, and for those 43 disabled Vermonters the future appears blurry. The answer to the question is elusive: how can we best protect vulnerable Vermonters?

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Governor’s Budget Slashes Disability Aid