Disabled funding plan needs approval

The Jindal administration has cleared one federal hurdle in its quest to use hurricane recovery money to expand home- and community-based services for the developmentally disabled.

But it has a big one left to go, the state Senate Finance Committee learned Monday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will allow the state to use the $12 million in hurricane recovery dollars for the health care purpose, state Department of Health and Hospitals Deputy Secretary Courtney Phillips said.

But the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has not yet determined whether the Community Development Block Grant money can be used as state match to attract more than that in federal Medicaid funds, she said.

“We are waiting on CMS to say whether we can use it as match,” Phillips said.

Advocates for the developmentally disabled have questioned whether the federal government would allow the hurricane dollars to be used. In addition, they have questioned using the one-time funds for an expansion that needs funding every year. The new dollars will allow more than 2,000 disabled people on waiting lists to get services that allow them to stay out of institutions.

Jindal vetoed extra funding last year, prompting a veto override move that brought lots of attention but fell short. This time around, Jindal inserted the one-time funds that came the state’s way for recovery efforts after hurricanes Isaac and Gustav. It’s part of $682 million in one-time funding used in Jindal’s proposed state budget.

“Is the plan to continue tapping into HUD funds” in the future? asked state Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia.

“In the outyears, you have to come up with additional money,” DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said.

Kliebert said nobody has ever been removed from the program for lack of funding.

“So HUD would be the plan for next year,” Mills said.

He sought a commitment from Kliebert and the administration that no one would lose services.

“We have never taken anybody off those services,” Kliebert said.

State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, put it another way. “If it’s not HUD, you are going to fund it somewhere else,” Claitor said.