If you are a person with disabilities, then living independently is probably one of your goals in life. For many, this is only possible through the assistance of family, friends and professionals. And though it may be difficult to organize these elements, there are systems in place that should enable independent living. However, there is a major problem in this system, and Oklahomans with disabilities who wish to live on their own need to be aware of this obstacle.
Will the State Pay Care Workers Enough to Make Independent Living Possible for Oklahomans?
For nearly a decade, support for independent living has been decreasing all over the nation and here in Oklahoma. After passing on Medicaid expansion, the state legislature has slowly cut funding to disability services all over the state. This has limited the services to people who want to live independent and self-sustaining lives despite a disability.
These cuts have limited the pay of care attendants who often travel long distances in order to care for their patients. These workers often make a reported $8 to $9 an hour, a wage lower than what many fast food servers make. This low pay has forced many care attendants to move on to higher paying jobs, and it has reduced the choice people with disabilities have in the service personnel they choose.
Will Cuts Affect Other Disability Benefits?
Despite the limitation these cuts have put on Oklahomans with disabilities, more cuts are being discussed. The Developmental Disabilities Services department of the Department of Human Services is looking at a $3.9 million cut. This limits what partner nonprofits can pay their employees, and it also prevents them from attracting new care givers from higher paying jobs.
Another unforeseen effect could actually increase the wait time for state disability services. There are around 7,550 people waiting on a 10-year long waiting list for state disability services. More cuts could increase this list and hurt 1,200 people who rely on state-funded benefits.
For people who depend on Social Security Disability to make ends meet, this could put an extra drain on their finances and force them into care facilities. Experts are searching for alternatives, while DHS tries to convince legislators to not cut benefits for the 5,500 people who are already receiving services. Will you add your voice to those pleas?