The Washington Legislature makes a down payment for Supported Living

Community residential services for people with developmental disabilities received a significant down payment on restoring the budget cuts from the recession years. The final Supplemental Operating Budget that the Washington State Legislature passed yesterday increases funding for Supported Living by 30 cents per hour—almost half the amount of cuts made by the legislature in 2009 and 2010. Supported Living agencies will still be providing the same level of service with less money than they received in 2009, but the gap has narrowed. 

Funding for residential services for people with developmental disabilities took a big hit from the legislature during the Great Recession and for five years thereafter, budget writers prioritized other programs for funding over Supported Living and neglected any efforts to restore Supported Living funding cuts. During those five years, minimum wage increased and the legislature raised wages for Home Care workers, resulting in entry level wages for Supported Living Direct Support Staff to drop to $10 an hour (just 68 cents above minimum wage) and Home Care Worker wages overtook Supported Living.

Thanks to our champion, Representative Charles Ross, and support from Representative Maureen Walsh and Representative Ruth Kagi, Supported Living will regain some funding this year. Representative Ross fought for an amendment to the House proposed budget, first for a $2 an hour increase to catch up with Home Care Wages, which did not pass. He then proposed an increase of $1 an hour, which did not pass and then 50 cents an hour, which also did not pass. His amendment for a 30 cents an hour increase passed and survived budget negotiations between the House and the Senate. The legislature still has work to do in the next session to restore Supported Living funding, but they made it almost halfway there with yesterday’s budget passage.