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Rubber hits road

So when you talk about cutting back government, here’s one little example of what that means.

When cuts like this one are imposed, legislators and other policy makers speak of them in terms of inevitability – there was no other way. That is, of course, not true: Additional money could have been raised, one way or another. There was nothing inevitable about this; it was a policy decision. The decision in Idaho was this:

In order to meet a $1.1 million deficit in a cash assistance program, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is reducing or eliminating payments to approximately 1,250 Idahoans. The reduction affects approximately 9% of people participating in the Aged, Blind and Disabled (AABD) program, which pays monthly cash assistance to participants.

“We regret having to take these actions, but we simply do not have the funds to continue the program at the current level,” says Russ Barron, administrator for the Division of Welfare. “We carefully looked at all types of assistance offered by the AABD program to determine what payments could be trimmed to meet our reduced SFY 2011 budget and better align Idaho’s program with other states.”

AABD provides cash assistance to individuals who are 65 or older, blind or have a disability. Eligible individuals receive a certain amount of cash each month to help pay for everyday living expenses. Most Idaho recipients will continue to receive a cash payment of $53 a month.

Over 14,700 Idahoans receive cash payments through the AABD program, which has grown more than 40% over the last ten years. Compared to other states, Idaho has provided some of the most generous cash assistance benefits, with all of the AABD payments funded by State dollars. Given the current budget situation, the State cannot continue current payment levels to the growing number of AABD participants. Without this change, the program would grow by a projected $500,000 of state general funds annually. The program is expected to cost $9.1 million this fiscal year.

Payment reductions range from $33 a month to almost $200 a month. The most significant change is for approximately 300 participants with developmental disabilities who live in certified family homes. Certified family homes are typically homes that provide care for one to two people with disabilities, providing room, board, and help with daily living requirements such as dressing or personal hygiene.

This group will no longer receive $198 a month in AABD payments, although they will continue to receive their Social Security Income payments of approximately $674/month as well as medical coverage through Idaho’s Medicaid program. All Medicaid benefits will remain the same, which includes a payment of $1,600 a month to the certified family home provider for helping a resident with daily living requirements.

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