Development Disability Awareness Day is this Wednesday February 9. The Arc of Florida will have an exhibit this year and will be giving a presentation highlighting families being served by The Arc of Florida family. We will recognize the importance of our Direct Support Professionals and the need to educate policymakers not just on February 9, but year-round. During the day you can hear presentations from The Family Café, Disability Rights of Florida, Florida Self Advocates Network, and many others. We will also hear from Florida Developmental Disability Council Executive Director Valerie Breen and a special message from many of our champions like Senator Aaron Bean, Rep. Rick Roth and many others. Mark your calendars to be part of this cause to action ~ every individual and family we serve has access to information, advocacy, and opportunities and support full participation in their community.   REGISTER HERE!
House and Senate Appropriations Bill and Impact on Direct Support Professionals. The House and Senate have released their initial budgets. It is clear that the Legislature understands a major investment needs to be included in this year. The Appropriations Act is available, as well as the proviso associated with the rate increases; they have included on the House and Senate websites. Below you will find the links to the entire budget with specific direction to look at APD funding. Although there are many items in both House and Senate budget, the purpose of this update is to focus on the iBudget Rate Increases. 
The House General Appropriations Act (called PCB APC 22-01: General Appropriation Act) has included in their budget $82,177,900 General Revenue which would allow the state to draw down another $124,819,328 from the trust fund for a total of $206,997,228 bringing direct support staff to $13/hr. The House also includes another $41,981,528 for 800 projected crisis cases to be taken off the waiting list and placed on the Waiver. The House Proviso is written similar to the language the last time there was a rate increase. It states that the “… Agency for Persons with Disabilities for a uniform rate increase for the hourly minimum wage to $13.00 per hour. The funds shall be used exclusively to increase the salaries of direct care staff. The agency must submit a report to the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the chair of the House Appropriations Committee by December 1, 2022, that evaluates the impact of the rate increase on the average salary of direct care staff.” (To see entire APD budget go to pages 68 – 74 at Florida House; note that the proviso discussed below is at line item 245.)
The Senate Appropriations Act (called SPB 2500: Appropriations) has included in their budget $151,468,885 General Revenue which would allow the state to draw down another $230,064,830 from a trust fund for a total of $381,533,715 to bring direct support staff to $15/hr. They also increased the Behavioral Services Rate Increase by $11,298,560 General Revenue and $17,161,289 of federal match to have $28,459,849. The Senate Proviso language is more extensive and states that that the funds “… are appropriated for the sole purpose of raising wages of direct service providers who provide services under Florida’s Developmental Disabilities Individual Budgeting Waiver to at least $15.00 per hour….” The Senate proviso also has a Memorandum of Understanding agreement that providers must sign with strict guidance on disbursement with the ability of a direct service provider to bring a civil action against the provider if the direct service provider is not paid at least $15 per hour. (To see entire APD budget go to pages 71 -77 at Florida Senate; note that the proviso for the senate is at line item 245.)
This week the bills will be voted out of committee and will go to the House and Senate the following week. Joint Conference Committees will be appointed after allocations by program area are decided by House and Senate leadership. Conference reports will eventually go to the floor and at the end, the appropriations will have to be identical before the go to the Governor for consideration. In other words, there is a long way to go. Please feel free to reach out to
Substantive Legislation – limiting use of mechanical restraints in school: Restraint of Students with Disabilities in Public School (HB 235, Plasencia and SB 390, Book). According to the House of Representatives Staff Analysis “[t]he bill prohibits the use of mechanical restraint by school personnel except for school resource officers, school safety offers, school guardians, or school security guards, who may use mechanical restraint in the exercise of their duties to restrain students in grades 6 through 12. However, devices prescribed or recommended by physical or behavioral health professionals may still be sued for their indicated purpose.” The Senate and House bills are identical. The House bill has been through all of its assigned committees with unanimous votes support the bill. It will now go to the House floor. The Senate bill is on its second committee of reference in the Education Committee. Since the bills in the House and Senate are identical and all votes have been positive, it is looking really good for this legislation. The Arc of Florida supports this bill since it further limits the use of mechanical restraints.