Developmentally disabled crowd Scott’s office protesting cutsby John Kennedy | April 6th, 2011
Dozens of developmentally disabled Floridians and their caregivers crowded Gov. Rick Scott’s office Wednesday, protesting a 15 percent rate-cut the Republican chief executive ordered last week to close a $170 million deficit.
The crowd came to the Capitol the same day the House and Senate were debating next year’s budget proposals — which seek to include enough dollars for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities that the rate reduction would be lifted.
But for the closing three months of the current budget year, jobs are threatened and group homes may close, advocates said.
“Most of our staff makes less than $8-an-hour,” said Ross O’Banion, executive director of Angels Unaware, Inc., which operates eight group homes in the Tampa area. “They’re not in it for the money. And about 70 percent of the people who live in our homes have no parents, no nearby relatives, or they’ve been taken away from parents because of abuse.
“They have no safety net,” O’Banion said.
Advocates for those with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, spinal bifida and other disabilities organized Wednesday’s gathering at the Capitol, which drew hundreds from around the state.
But those at the rally were disappointed. No lawmakers emerged to address the crowd when it began gathering outside the Capitol. And outside Scott’s office, where they crowded the reception area and lined a Capitol corridor, supporters said a Scott aide stepped out only to tell them the governor was out of town — touting tourism in Palm Beach County.