October 31, 2014

Sheltered workshops seek fund restoration; budget office sees no funds to restore (AUDIO)

Missouri’s Sheltered Workshops are telling lawmakers five years of penny-pinching is hurting people who should not be hurt and is costing the state more money in the long run.

Five years ago, 93 Missouri Sheltered Workshops employed about 7,500 disabled Missourians. But a spokesman for the workshops says unchanging budgets for the last three years, increased costs, and growing demands are leaving them with reduced numbers and a growing waiting list. Executive director Randy Hylton of the Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshops Managers  says two workshops have closed. More than 500 people are no longer employed. The waiting list of disabled people wanting to work has grown from 600 five years ago to more than 1,300 people now.

Hylton thinks state government has handled its lean financial years responsibly. But he says the biggest concern is the loss of almost $10 milion state dollars in the last five years.

“But it’s also time … for us to come to you and speak out loudly about the fact that we’re seeing people with disabilities not being able to go to work,” he says.

State budget director Linda Luebbering questions Hylton’s $10 milion figure.  She says the Fiscal Year 2008-2009 budget for sheltered worksops was $21.2 million, an amount increased in FY 2009-2010 to $24.8 milion.  She says the budget has stayed at that level for the last three fiscal years.

Hylton says it’s costing the state $70 to $100 a day for many of the 1,300 people on waiting lists to be in a day program when they could be working for $19 a day.

Hylton says he understands the governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year will call for no change in funding.  But Hylton says another $2 million would mean a lot to people with disabilities who want to be working, taxpaying, citizens.

He says the governor has withheld $787,000 from the program’s budget in this fiscal year — which Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) finds curious since, he says, the state is on track to take in $100 million more in taxes this year than expected.

Luebbering says that amount represents the three percent standard withholding from all budgets that the governor is authorized by law to make at the beginning of each fiscal year.

AUDIO: Rand testifies before Committee (5:56)