End of 2021 Legislative Session Recap Pt 1: Budget

Posted by on Jun 30, 2021

The 2021 full Legislative session came to an end right on schedule this past weekend, after a session full of twists, turns, and historic investments in the intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) system. As you may recall, this legislative session was the first in Oregon’s history to be conducted remotely, with no public access to the Capitol Building in Salem. Our experience as advocates was certainly different than in typical sessions. Our access to the process and insight into the behind-the-scenes work of session was harder to come by without a physical presence there. Nevertheless, legislators, their staff, lobbyists, advocates, and community members all adapted to this situation admirably, and made it through a tremendous amount of legislative work.

We were very lucky this session to have such a capable, dedicated, and harmonious set of legislators on the Joint Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services. This is the committee that hears all Human Services bills with a fiscal impact, including the Human Services Budget bill. There is nothing funded within the IDD services budget that does not go through this committee. Under the leadership of Rep. Rob Nosse and Sen. Kate Lieber, this group of legislators worked in a bipartisan manner on issues important to their constituents and people all across Oregon. We owe a special shout-out to Sen. Cedric Hayden on this committee, who used one of his priority bills to champion the Family-to-Family Networks. His SB 3395 would have committed $3 million toward an expansion of the Family Networks to cover the entire state. Rep. Duane Stark committed significant meeting time to the DD Coalition and other IDD advocates, asked important questions, and made supportive remarks on the record, as he has done now for years. Likewise, Sen. Sara Gelser has a long-standing commitment to IDD services in numerous ways, including serving this year on the subcommittee. Her colleagues can rely upon Sen. Gelser to lend insight as a parent of a person with IDD, and also as a person with long-term experience with the inter-workings of the ODHS system. New to the legislature this year, Rep. Wlnsvey Campos and her incredible team of staff were so generous with their time, meeting with advocates over and over, learning quickly and thoroughly the issues that matter most to our community. Sen. Tim Knopp continued as he has for years giving the IDD community his attention and effort to understand and honor our requests. Last, but very far from least, Rep. Anna Williams was a tremendous ally of IDD services both on the subcommittee, and as the Chair of the House Committee on Human Services. The Brokerages join the rest of our advocacy community in commending this group, and the truly impressive amount of work that they accomplished with empathy and grace.

Let’s take a look at how some of our budget priorities fared this session.

Case Management Funding

Brokerages are run through funding from the state, which is allocated by the legislative budget process. We are a line item in the Human Services Budget bill, his year moving as SB 5529. This budget piece determines how much funding Brokerages have to operate; for example, how many Brokerage staff we can afford to hire. Note that this funding is separate from the funding allocated to fund people’s ISP spending, and other direct services to people with IDD. The services people with IDD use in their plans will continue to be fully funded.

Each biennium, ODHS creates a Workload Model showing how much it would cost if the state itself provided IDD case management. The Legislature then decides what percentage of that cost it will provide to the CDDPs and Brokerages who do the work. In the 2019-2021 budget, the Legislature set FTE in the Brokerage model at 78.5%, and then funded the model at 95%. For all Brokerages and all CDDPs over the two-year span, the Legislature committed a total of $124 million General Fund for this work.

This year, legislatures heard our advocacy, they heard your stories, and they had the resources to respond. For the 2021-2023 budget, the Legislature set FTE in the Brokerage model at 88%, and then funded the model at 95%. For all Brokerages and all CDDPs over the two-year span, the Legislature committed a total of $170 million General Fund for this work. Though it falls $20 million short of full funding for case management, this investment is a huge step forward for our community. As case management entities and advocates with and for people with IDD, we thank the 2021 Legislature for their profound recognition of these services.

Family-to-Family Network Funding

Family-to-Family Networks serve 12,000 families across Oregon, many of whom are not served by the formal service system. This is a network of peers, helping to educate, inform, reassure, and elevate the needs and concerns of families of people with IDD. In the first 2020 Special Legislative Session, these services were de-funded to preserve General Fund needed for wildfire mitigation and COVID management. These services are essential to thousands of Oregon families. For this session, there has been a tremendous effort led by these Networks, their supporters, and the entire IDD community to demonstrate their worth and advocate for their reinstatement at $1.3 million. As mentioned above, the Family Networks were overjoyed when Sen. Hayden introduced SB 3395, which would have committed $3 million toward an expansion of the Family Networks to cover the entire state. Though that bill did not pass, the Family Networks were ultimately reinstated through the Human Services budget to the tune of $1.4 million–the cost to reinstate, updated for inflation. Our immense gratitude goes out to the 2021 Legislature for hearing and restoring these vital services, and Brokerage community partners!

DSP Wages

Funding for Direct Support Professionals employed by IDD provider agencies have been at critical levels of under-funding for years. Session after session, we rally people to share their stories of what happens when they are unable to find DSPs to provide in-home supports, and DSPs who are unable to find housing on the wages for which state funding pays. This year’s advocacy on this issue started off differently. Led by ORA and CPAO, provider agencies partnered with Chief Sponsor Rep. Nosse to introduce HB 2964, which sought to create a stable level of funding for DSPs by tying their average wage to 150% of state minimum wage. The bill had very good showing in committee and beyond, but ultimately failed to move across the finish line. Instead, lawmakers committed a historic amount of new funding to bolster DSP wages across all service areas. For details on how this funding was put together and how it will be rolled out, please see the Office of Developmental Disability Services message from Director Lilia Teninty on the topic, here. Though we all would have loved to see HB 2964 pass and sustain that investment year after year with the economy, we are deeply grateful and pleased to see this recognition of Direct Support Professional work, and how it impacts the lives of so many.

Part Two of this session recap will look at a selection of bills that we followed most closely this session, and where they ended up.