Gov. Scott to aide APD

Gov. Rick Scott speaks to Agency for Persons with Disabilities employees Tuesday, April 12, as Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and Bryan Vaughan, acting director of APD, listen. / Bill Cotterell / Pensacola News Journal

TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Rick Scott, who ordered an across the board spending cut by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to address a projected $174 million budget shortage, said today he hopes the Legislature will put up “emergency funding” to prevent disabled Floridians from losing services.

“It’s real frustrating to come to office and within the first few months have to do an emergency order to figure out how we get a handle so we don’t run out of money before we get to the fiscal year,” Scott told about 100 APD employees after a tour of their agency. “Hopefully, we’ll see if the Legislature will give us some emergency funding. But we have to live within our means.”

Scott ordered a 15 percent reduction in state payments to providers who care for developmentally disabled people. More than 6,000 providers statewide are reimbursed for in-home or group-home services through the Home and Community Based Services waiver program. This year’s budget appropriates $806 million for the program but costs were projected to be $980 million. The program also has a $50 million deficit from last year.

Advocates for providers and clients say the impact of the 90-day cut will be 20 to 30 percent – or more – because companies providing attendants to clients also lost allowances for many administrative services.

Scott said after his APD visit that he has notified the Legislature of the $174 million shortage, which has been snowballing since about 2005. Then, APD added about 5,000 clients to its service rolls but has never received legislative funding to cover the additional services. The agency serves about 35,000 people, about 30,000 of them through the Medicaid waiver program that was reduced by Scott’s order.

Scott said he could “withdraw the executive order” and restore full payment to service providers, if the Legislature covers the funding gap. But he said he doesn’t want it to happen again in future fiscal budgets.

“The other thing that we’ve got to do is, we’ve got to make sure this doesn’t continue,” said Scott. “As we all know, this was the worst year, being $174 million over, but it’s been going on since the agency started. So we’ve got to come up with a funding mechanism and a management team that’s going to make sure we take care of this very vulnerable group of people but also make sure we live within our means.”