Californians with disabilities, their families, and their direct support workforce have reason to celebrate due to a historic investment of more than $3.5 billion approved by the Legislature and sent to Governor Newsom for signature and enactment. This funding, as summarized below, will increase access to services and supports, including regional center services, special education, SSI/SSP, IHSS, and Medi-Cal. The approved budget investments were a culmination of years of advocacy by the disability community combined with efforts of legislative champions in the State Capitol.
Still outstanding is a nearly $1 billion spending proposal from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) that uses funds made available in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for home and community-based services. Those investments in addition to the investments in the state budget combine to form a transformative era for disability services in California.
A more detailed budget report along with a look-back at advocacy efforts and acknowledgment of extraordinary commitment from legislators is forthcoming.
Summary Highlights of Budget Investments Impacting California’s Disability Community:
• Regional Center Services:
o Developmental Services Provider Rate Study. Phases in an ongoing $1.2 billionGeneral Fund (approximately $2 billion Total Funds) to fully phase in the rate study provider increases over a five-year period. This will help ensure providers receive fairer compensation and that families will continue to have access to the vital services provided.
o Restoration of Eliminated Services. Restores social recreation, camping services, educational services, and non-medical therapies for persons served, with $19 million General Fund in 2021-22, $31.6 M in 2022-23, and $36.8 million General Fund in 2023-24 and on-going
o Direct Support Workforce. $2.9 million General Fund in 2021- 22 to establish a training and certification program for direct service professionals tied to wage differentials. The program aims to reduce staff wage inequity, stabilize service access, and professionalize and diversify the workforce. Beginning in 2023-24, ongoing costs increase to $51 million General Fund. $2.2 million General Fund in 2021- 22 to create a differential for bilingual service provider staff. Beginning in 2023-24, ongoing costs increase to $6.5 million General Fund.
o Service Coordination. $12.8 million ($10 million General Fund) for enhanced service coordination for individuals with low to no purchase of services within the regional center system. Beginning in 2022-23, $61.8 million General Fund ongoing to hire additional service coordinators at Regional Centers for enhanced service coordination.
• Early Start. $23.8 million ongoing General Fund to provide children aging out of Early Start provisional Lanterman service eligibility up to age five.
• Medi-Cal at 50+, Regardless of Immigration Status. Provides ongoing funding growing to $1.3 billion to expand Medi-Cal eligibility to all income eligible Californians 50-plus years of age, regardless of immigration status.
• Medi-Cal Asset Test removal. Eliminates the Medi-Cal asset test for seniors to remove the “senior savings” penalty, to expand access to more income eligible seniors.
• SSI/SSP Legacy Cut Restoration. Provides $225 million in 2021-22 and $450 million in 2022-23 to restore 50 percent of the remaining 2009 SSI/SSP grant cut, and anticipates the remaining 50 percent of the cut will be restored in the 2023-24 budget year. This restoration (combined with Governor’s May Revision proposal) will increase the SSP grant by approximately $36 per month for individuals and $92 per month for couples.
• Permanent Restoration of IHSS 7% Hours Cut. Finally ends the legacy of 7% cut in in-home care services to elderly and disabled Californians. While the cut was restored in prior years, the threat of the cut remained by it being added to the list of program “suspensions” that would have automatically taken effect in future years.
• Special Education. Provides $396 million in ongoing Proposition 98 General Fund to increase the statewide base rate for the special education formula and $260 million ongoing Proposition 98 to fund specified services for children ages 3- 5 years old. In addition, one-time funds of $550 million Proposition 98 are provided to invest in increased support for special education alternative dispute resolution and learning recovery supports for special education students associated with impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Youth Behavioral Health. Invests $4.4 billion dollars over five years to create a new, modern, and innovative behavioral health system for youth ages 0 to 25, including $205 million for the Mental Health Student Services Act to fund school an d county mental health partnerships to support the mental health and emotional needs of children and youth as they return to schools and everyday life.