Hundreds Rally Against APD Cuts

By: Margie Menzel, The News Service of Florida
By: Margie Menzel, The News Service of Florida


A hastily-assembled rally against cuts to programs that care for the developmentally disabled drew hundreds of people with disabilities, their families and caregivers to protest Gov. Rick Scott’s emergency order last week to slash payments to disability service providers by 15 percent through June 30.

Speakers said the cuts, due to their structure, would actually run 30 to 40 percent for many providers and drive dozens of group homes out of business. Throughout the rally, the crowd erupted in such frequent and long-lasting chants of “No More Cuts!” that one speaker begged for order.

“Hey, Rick! Pick on someone in your own tax bracket!” exhorted one sign in the crowd. “I make $8 an hour and can’t afford health insurance,” said another.

Ven Sequenzia of the Autism Society said 1,278 jobs would be lost due to the cuts.

“Governor Scott, you are devastating people’s lives!” shouted Rich LaBelle of the Family Network on Disabilities. “You are destroying businesses! You are destroying jobs!”

Scott has said the move is necessary to close a gap in the current budget of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities that could top $169 million by the end of the fiscal year. APD, which serves 35,000 people with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, autism, mental retardation and other developmental disorders, has chronically run multi-million-dollar deficits even as its wait list has swollen by tens of thousands.

The wait list is the basis of a lawsuit filed last month against Scott, APD and the Agency for Health Care Administration. The advocacy group Disability Rights Florida, one of the plaintiffs, says the state is violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide services.

“I don’t know if there’s any family in America that’s not affected by a disability,” said Tallahassee Mayor John Marks, who told the crowd he was at the rally because his niece’s daughter is autistic. “It’s important that you make your voices heard.”

But another speaker wondered if state leaders had any disabled loved ones.

“The people who are creating these budgets don’t have disabilities,” said John Kirchner of Winter Park, who owns A+ Home Aid. Kirchner, himself in a wheelchair, suggested the governor should come to his house to help him get through his day, including helping him with going to the bathroom, before finalizing his decision.

The Autism Society’s Sequenzia praised the House of Representatives for restoring the cuts ordered by Scott in its budget proposal for next year. “But the Senate doesn’t,” he said.

After the rally, the crowd fanned out to lobby policymakers, waiting in a long line at the Capitol entrance. More than 100 stayed for hours in Scott’s office until two staffers agreed to meet with Sequenzia and Aaron Nangle, a representative of the care providers. Scott wasn’t there; he was attending events in Palm Beach.

Even as the protestors lobbied against the Senate’s budget proposal, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said on the Senate floor that APD couldn’t be permitted to continue running huge deficits.

"Even when you're doing the Lord's work, you still have to balance your budget,'' Negron said. “We can’t allow one agency to spend more than what the Legislature has appropriated.”

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  • by Children will continue to suffer. Location: Florida on Apr 8, 2011 at 09:33 AM
    To L.B.: The cost of stepping out of the Will of God with artifically concieving are very high! This is an unnatural act, not God's plan, it is Man's. Were your friends so selfish not to adopt an unwanted baby in desprate need of a loving family? My white brother and wife from California had a heart big enough to adopt a 6 day old crack baby that was out of their race. Now my niece is 12 years old and has no side effects of crack at birth. She has brought tremdeous joy to our family. So sad your adult friends have made this child suffer so. Maybe the family could qualify for food stamps and public assistance now to offset the cost of her healthcare. Too sad many children wind up like this.
  • by RetiredMarine Location: Tallahassee on Apr 8, 2011 at 07:31 AM
    We need to cut spending, but this is the one area that spending cuts should not be made. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have all that God intended should bear the costs not those that are encumbered by disabilities...
  • by L.B. Location: Tally on Apr 7, 2011 at 07:19 PM
    I personally know of a woman who had enough money to have in vitro fertilization. Sadly when she became pregnant the doctor informed her that the baby would be born with serious disabilities. She chose to go forward with the pregnancy and has a child with disabilitites that require twenty four hour care. She is not able to work and her husbands income and health insurance does not cover the cost of care for the child. The State of Florida, through APD pay her six figures a year to provide care to her child. (A child that she could not conceive naturally, that she paid a lot of money to conceive.) But the tax payer now pays for her to care for the child. Like it or not this one of the many faces of welfare. We have tougher laws surrounding abortion - thanks to conservatives - and we are left picking up the tab - some way or some how - we will pay for other peoples decisions.
  • by JW Location: Local on Apr 7, 2011 at 02:43 PM
    I can assure you that Rick Scott made this decision with no intentional "discrimination" against people with disabilities. Scott made this cut along with all of his other cuts as an important business decision. Contrary to what many in today's time believe, our government (local, state, and federal)is a big business. Businesses only exist through a budget. When businesses get out of their budget and consistently increase their debt, they close down. APD has put itself in a deficit! Rick Scott is having to "clean house!" Sure, the state of Florida could continue to put itself in an even larger deficit. But this would get us no where. Most of you are mad at Rick Scott because he is stepping up and doing what our former governors should have done. In the current economic conditions, things are going to get tough. Cuts are going to have to come from somewhere. Jobs are going to have to be lost for a while until the state's economic condition is better. I am not even old enough to vote yet, but I am an up-to-date teen who sees the light at the end of this tunnel, rather than the dark "evil" things Rick Scott is doing now. Scott has a plan, he just needs people to believe in it. Also, I am very respectful of people with disabilities. I have a family member who has worked with people with disabilities for over 6 years. I was raised to respect the less fortunate, and through the experiences I have been through with disabled people my respect for them is beyond anything I can explain. It is a very unfortunate situation, but we are going to have to unite and support the ones who are trying to help (Rick Scott.) Open your eyes. Observe the present state of today's economy. Research Scott's plans, both present and future. Don;t be close minded and maybe you can grow to appreciate what he is doing to better the lives of the upcoming generations! God Bless!
    • reply
      by Kim on Apr 7, 2011 at 06:21 PM in reply to JW
      We with family members who HAVE disabilities appreciate your respect. Unfortunately providers do not accept respect as payment. We are fortunate that we are able to provide for our family but many people can not. I do not agree with taking money away from them. It's wrong no matter how you try to spin it.
  • by LARRY on Apr 7, 2011 at 12:46 PM
  • by Anonymous on Apr 7, 2011 at 11:53 AM
    This is what happens when so many feed from the public troff when they have done nothing to refill that troff. All that is happening, is that Scott wants them to live within their budget....if that is so hard to grasp, then you deserve nothing...yes, the cuts are going to hurt, but they have to happen. Moreover, how many have families who can afford to help, but still rely on the govt for assistance? Maybe most of you haters should do a bit more homework and actually listen to Scott instead of jumping off the deep end.
    • reply
      by HMA on Apr 7, 2011 at 06:42 PM in reply to
      Well said; well mostly.
  • by sb Location: tallahassee on Apr 7, 2011 at 11:17 AM
    You miss the point when you say "go home and make do"...aren't the folks who will be most affected by the passing of this bill unable to "make do" like the rest of us. I am making do with less and "tightening my belt" but that is because I can. Where is the compassion here!?!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 7, 2011 at 11:47 AM in reply to sb
      Compassion has no place in government. Compassion belongs at Church.
      • reply
        by sb on Apr 7, 2011 at 12:28 PM in reply to
        Setting religion aside....compassion has a place in humanity. I, for one, will gladly make room in my life for fact, I will make room in my life to carry your compassion too!
  • by NO Location: Tallahassee on Apr 7, 2011 at 10:42 AM
    We don't have the money. All of us are having to do more with less. Go home and make do with what you the rest of us.
  • by Jerrica Location: Leesburg, FL on Apr 7, 2011 at 09:48 AM
    I am so extremely disgusted by most of the previous comments. The idea of "tightening the belt" is wonderful. I was always taught to lead by example. It shouldn't be "do as I say, not as I do". If we're trying to pinch pennies, why is he handing out $20,000 dollar raises to members of his administration. The few caregivers that haven't lost their jobs received massive pay cuts when they made less than $20,000 to begin with. That means, if you were working in that field, your kids will be going without a whole lot. But we as perfectly able people can just go get another job. It might be hard to find one now but the real victims are the disabled. Those who can't work due to problems they were born with. They rely on that check to keep them alive. It's not their fault but their losing their homes because funding was cut so drastically, the company they were with couldn't afford to keep their doors open. All those who were working at their facility is now in the same boat as the client, relying on a failing system run by the disgraceful florida government. So all of you who "voted for Rick Scott", I voted for Alex Sink and when they cut something you feel strongly about to afford the HUGE tax breaks to big business, you'll wish you had too. He's DISGUSTING and I CAN NOT WAIT UNTIL NEXT ELECTION because I can ASSURE you he will not be reelected. He has successfully rubbed enough people the WRONG way. We might as well elect George Bush for a 3rd term.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 7, 2011 at 10:20 AM in reply to Jerrica
    • reply
      by keith stone on Apr 7, 2011 at 11:04 AM in reply to Jerrica
      20K raises? Where's the proof?
  • by Edith Location: Florida on Apr 7, 2011 at 09:26 AM
    I do not understand how this man can smile in the faces of the very people he is stabbing in the back. The persons who are goingto suffer are the ones that are not able to take care of themselves. Anybody who support this type of action, needs a heart transplant because the person's heart is not working. I am glad that I beleive in a man that sits high and looks low. After a while God is going to step in and those that have made themselves Gods will lose all their power. The past November elections have put people in position of power and they are clueless on how people live. Everyone of them are targeting the Senior Citizens, the disabled, teachers, firefighters,EMS, and the innocent children. At the day of judgment, they will be asked about this action and they will not be able to steal, cheat and destroy their way out of Hell.
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