State funding to Michigan’s 15 Centers for Independent Living (CILs) was shifted to keep state department programs afloat after budget tensions resulted in vetoes and funding reallocation. The funds account for 25% of the CILs’ state funding, which has served as a stable funding source to provide supports and services to people with disabilities for eight years.
“Our CILs support people with disabilities to live independently and achieve economic self-sufficiency,” said Diane Fleser, Chairperson of the Disability Network/Michigan board of directors. “We are changing lives and communities and our services have a great return on investment. Last year alone, our services resulted in $41 million in taxpayer savings.”
Disability Network/Michigan is the organization that promotes the collective interests of the 15 Centers for Independent Living in Michigan. The CILs were slated for a $1.5 million increase in funding for the fiscal year 2020 state budget. That increase, and an additional $2 million, was removed and redistributed in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services budget. Critical services for over 9,000 people with disabilities across the state are now in jeopardy.
Joel Cooper, President and CEO of Disability Network Southwest Michigan, said, “Many people with disabilities depend on our organizations to help them achieve their goals to find jobs, move out of nursing homes, regain skills after acquiring a disability and transitioning out of special education into adulthood. These cuts are devastating to the people we serve and their families.” Collectively, Michigan’s CILs serve around 40,000 people with disabilities per year. In addition, they educate on average 80,000 people in Michigan about disability with the goal of creating more inclusive and barrier-free communities.
The Center for Independent Living program is federally-established in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1978. The Act is currently embedded into the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014. The CIL program is established and operated by people with disabilities. A majority of both staff and governing boards of each of the 15 Centers for Independent Living are people with an array of disabilities, ranging from wheelchair users, people who are blind, staff who have mental illnesses and employees who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. The impact of these cuts will result in the lay-off of 33 employees, many of whom have disabilities. CIL services slated to be cut include mobile outreach to rural communities, crisis services, voter accessibility work, Census 2020 efforts, emergency preparedness, outreach to help people move out of nursing homes and occupational therapy to help people facing nursing home admission remain in their own homes.
All of these service cuts come with real consequences. For example, a nursing home stay costs Medicaid on average $87,000 per year, whereas providing services in the home costs on average less than $15,000 per year. Failure to ensure voter accessibility translates into the disability voice not being heard during the 2020 elections. Obtaining a complete count of Michigan’s citizens is dependent upon the 2020 Census community-based efforts. Michigan is facing a loss in federal funding and a congressional seat if our population drops, making this count highly critical. “A decline in CIL efforts will have a real impact on Michigan communities and people with disabilities. The loss of these funds will ultimately lead to higher costs for the state,” said Sara Grivetti, Chief Executive Officer of Disability Network/Michigan.
Disability Network/Michigan will continue their advocacy efforts with the Governor’s office and the Legislature. Until funding is restored, the outlook for people with disabilities served by the Centers for Independent Living is uncertain.