Ability Network of Delaware’s Response to the Joint Finance Committee Vote on McNesby Act Appropriation

Today, Delaware’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted to approve $4 million for FY 2020 to help close the funding gap for services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“Because so many DSPs have left their positions in nonprofit agencies like Elwyn and Easterseals to take better-paying jobs in Delaware and the mid-Atlantic region, and because the nonprofit agencies are having difficulty replacing them, this has become an endangered workforce,” said Thomas Cook, executive director of the Ability Network of Delaware (A.N.D.). “The State must make funding the McNesby Act a higher priority, if it wants community-based services to survive.”

The funding passed by the JFC today will increase the State’s support for Direct Support Professional (DSP) wages to $9.50 per hour. The study published by the Department of Health and Social Services in January 2019 identified a goal of increasing the State’s support for DSP wages from $9.00/hour to $14.11/hour.

While today’s decision by the JFC takes a small step towards that goal, which is appreciated, increasing these wages to the recommended level would take an additional $38 million every year.

A.N.D. Board Vice-President Melinda South said, “We fear that the decision to appropriate much less than we had requested will result in an even greater turnover of DSPs. Failure to fully fund the I/DD system means that the State will need to start thinking about how and where these people will receive care if nonprofits can no longer provide the staff needed to operate community-based services.”

There is still an opportunity for the General Assembly to pass a supplemental appropriation bill before June 30th to direct some of the additional revenue found by DEFAC to ensure that adults with I/DD have the services they need to stay safe and healthy in their local communities. Advocates who support adequate funding for community-based I/DD services urge lawmakers to keep the promise they made in the McNesby Act.