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Developmental Disability Providers Worry State Budget Not Enough

Those who serve people with developmental disabilities in Arizona say the final state budget will likely force some of them to scale back or close down.

Since the beginning of the year, Arizona’s providers for people with developmental disabilities have been scrambling. Many already operate on thin margins. The new minimum wage doesn’t apply to state workers, but it does to these agencies, which the state reimburses for adult day treatment and other services.

Wendy Shaw runs AIRES, one of the larger organizations in the state with more than 800 employees.

Shaw said what was finally included in the budget is not nearly enough.

“Many agencies are going to struggle because the funding allocated was so low and we may see more closures in this industry,” Shaw said.

Nearly 40 percent of providers shut down during the recession, but larger organizations were able to absorb those members. Shaw worries this time "there may end up not being enough capacity in the system to bring folks to other providers."

There’s about a $40 million discrepancy between what the Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities had calculated they needed to cover the ongoing impacts of Proposition 206 and what eventually made it into the budget.

Last year, Gov. Doug Ducey set aside emergency funding to cover the initial wage hike to $10 an hour in January. That same level of funding was annualized in next year's budget and additional state dollars set aside, which then gets multiplied by federal funding.  

Ducey's policy adviser Christina Corieri said that amounts to about a 17 percent increase over last year's rates.

“It’s above and beyond what both the legislative budget office as well as the executive budget office thought necessary to meet the needs of Proposition 206, but we are committed to making sure our network is sound and sufficient and able to provide those services,” Corieri said.

She added that lawmakers have also ordered a study to assess whether more funding will be needed in the future.

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.