Committee Discussion on Additional Topics
ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY POVERTY REDUCTION TASK FORCE
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12:26 PM -- Committee Discussion on Additional Topics
Representative Kefalas announced that the remainder of the meeting would be devoted to committee discussion and testimony on two additional topics: funding for services for the developmentally disabled, and cuts to Senior Support Services. Representative Summers provided background on discussions from the Access to Benefits Subcommittee concerning the pursuit of federal match funding for county mill levy dollars in order to provide services for the developmentally disabled. He explained that the issue is more complicated than it appears, and he discussed applicable law regarding the issue.
Representative Kefalas described the format for the discussion and stated that members of the committee would have an opportunity to request a bill draft related to the issue. Representative Kefalas read aloud a letter from Mr. Denver C. Fox concerning the use of mill levy dollars to provide services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Representative Kefalas read a second letter from Mr. Edward Arnold on the same topic.
The following individuals testified regarding the issue:
12:41 PM -- Ms. Sheryle Hutter, representing herself, her family, and the disability community, distributed written comments to the committee (Attachment M). She testified in favor of legislation that would direct counties to pursue federal match funding for county mill levy dollars in order to provide services to the developmentally disabled. She noted that the intent of the action would not be to cut services, but to reduce the waiting list for services. She described problems with the lack of transparency in the funding process. Discussion continued between Ms. Hutter and Representative Kefalas. Representative Kefalas stated that he understands the rationale behind the proposal, but he has heard concerns that the mill levy dollars need to be used locally, and that there would be a danger that community centered boards (CCBs) would be restricted in the use of federally matched funds. He said that there are concerns about unintended consequences. Ms. Hutter stated that counties should have flexibility in their funding, but she argued that there should also be flexibility in the ability to find additional funding. Representative Kefalas noted that current law already permits the federal match to occur; he conceded that clean-up may be needed, but questioned whether additional legislation would be necessary. Ms. Hutter explained that the current statute says that counties "may" pursue federal funding rather than stating that they "shall" pursue such funding, and added that adequate disclosure policies are not in place.
12:53 PM -- Ms. Katherine Carol, representing her family and other families with children with developmental disabilities, introduced herself and described her experience with Denver Options. She stated that the current situation presented an opportunity for innovation. She described the support that her daughter, who has a developmental disability, has received. Ms. Carol noted that other states have been able to increase local funding and requested that the discussion be allowed to continue.
12:56 PM -- Mr. Timothy O'Neill, representing Foothills Gateway, Inc., a CCB, described his organization. He offered information concerning the potential consequences of legislation that would direct counties to pursue federal match funding for county mill levy dollars. He expressed his organization's support for innovative ways to provide more funding, but stated that it was important to understand the context of mill levies. Mr. O'Neill responded to questions from Representative Kefalas concerning accountability issues. He stated that documents are available but noted that his organization has received very few formal or informal requests for additional documentation. Mr. O'Neill discussed past experience seeking federal match funding and described issues related to restrictions on the use of federal match funds. He provided background information on reasons why the previous match funding program did not last.
Representative Kagan asked for further clarification on how federal match funding would destroy Foothills Gateway, Inc.'s ability to serve its clients. Mr. O'Neill stated that federal funds are not able to be used for certain programs, so a federal match of mill levy dollars would cut off existing programs. Discussion continued concerning the possibility of using separate pots of mill levy dollars, some of which would be matched and some of which would not be, thereby making some funds available for existing programs.
01:10 PM -- Ms. Julie Reiskin, representing the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, distributed written testimony (Attachment N).
01:10 PM -- Dr. Stephen Block, representing Denver Options, Inc., a CCB, distributed written testimony and an attorney's letter concerning home rule counties (Attachments O and P, respectively). He discussed his organization's past experience with Medicaid match funding. He described the consequences that would result from such federal match funding. He said that federal restrictions, such as a prohibition on the use of Medicaid funds for administrative purposes, would prevent Denver Options from providing quality service. Representative Kefalas described the discrepancies between consumer and provider concerns. He asked if it would be possible to ensure that local mill levy dollars return to the county of origin. Dr. Block indicated that further study is needed. He also noted that Denver is a home rule county, which creates additional legal implications.
Representative Kagan asked if it would be possible to send a certain portion of funds to be federally matched for a specific purpose. Dr. Block explained that federal match funding would increase Denver Option's ability to provide services but would not be permitted to be spent hiring the staff or buying the equipment necessary to provide such services, which would be problematic. Representative Kefalas expressed his interest in exploring the issue further.
The committee opened discussion on the Denver Regional Council of Government's proposal to cut funding to Senior Support Services. Representative Kagan provided background information on the issue and distributed a related Denver Post article (Attachment Q). He proposed that the task force send a letter to the Denver Regional Council of Governments to inquire about the cut. He distributed a draft of the letter (Attachment R). Committee discussion ensued. Lacking a quorum, Representative Kefalas suggested that those members who would like to sign the letter could do so. Senator Boyd explained her reaction to the issue, and indicated that she would not be comfortable second-guessing the decisions of other public officials without more background information. Discussion continued concerning the purpose of the letter. Representative Kagan indicated that he will be rewriting the letter and will e-mail it to members of the task force.
The committee adjourned.