Thursday, August 10, 2017

Take 2 on the Consolidation Proposal from the Administration on Community Living

Operational Challenges Related to PIII

These comments outline operational challenges that may be anticipated if PIII were to be authorized by Congress.  PIII would eliminate State DD Councils, State Independent Living Councils, and, in 19 states, Advisory Councils on Traumatic Brain Injury. PIII would cut available money from $103 million to $45 million. PIII, if enacted, would establish one disability council in every state.The responsibility will fall mostly to governors in deciding how to address operational challenges.

1      Phasing out of funding to others.  The adverse impact will be substantial in –
a.     States with large funding allocations.
b.     States which disperse a majority of their funding to others.
c.     Situations where sub-grantees have one or more years to go on a sub-grant at the time of the phase out.
d.     Amount of certain types activities conducted. In states where DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards routinely invest in training on advocacy, whether directly or indirectly, even with renewal of funding through new disability councils, the funding available will be modest, and not provide the amount formerly provided through the three entities. The adverse impact on sponsored systems change and capacity building will be even more pronounced. System change usually involves coordinating people to educate politicians and personnel from agencies to do things differently. There will be much less of that. Capacity building, because of its nature, takes time and money. There will be much less of it as well. Governors will get negative feedback.
2      Spending down current funds by a specify date.  Even at the end of a federal fiscal year, grantees have three months to close out finalize financial records from the previous year. Dissolution is more complicated, because it will involve disposing of property and determining how or if to keep files for historical purposes. Employees, probably about to be out of a job, may be assigned to make sure these dissolution processes are done properly. They may just find a new job or retire, and leave these duties unfinished. No governor wants that on his or her watch.

3      Ability to continue work on priorities set in existing multi-year plans. Each state entity, under existing laws, must set priorities in plans based on input from stakeholders. The PIII concept runs the risk of pitting distinct stakeholder groups against each other, since they will be attempting to “save” their priorities in the new scheme of things. There will be less money to pursue priorities even if a particular stakeholder group is successful. Governors will experience negative feedback.
4      Relinquishing physical space. Office space is a prize commodity in most states. It affects state budgets. It can be a symbol of status. It can represent either easy access or not to the public who needs to conduct business or get information or help. Governors will experience pressure from other state actors to acquire newly released space. Governors, who resolve some space issues as the result of PIIII, may not rush to implement a new council.

5      Terminating or reassigning staff. Some states have strong unions. Whatever contracts are in place will play a role in how and if many people are released from DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards. If bumping is an option, that means more senior employees from these three state entities, in states with strong employee contracts, could take the jobs of other employees less senior. That could have a domino effect causing disruption in the ranks. No governor wants that.

6      Firing existing council and board members.  Governors appoint members of DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards. They get recommendations from other who have political power or influence about appointments. Governors will not appreciate having to undo political appointments of 30-50 people.

7      How and when to provide public notification of the dissolution of councils or an advisory board.  Given how big and potentially pervasive the impact of PIII will be, especially in large states, a governor’s spokesperson will need to be involved. Messaging will be critical. The message must be clear, credible, and defensible. It must be able to counter “if it’s not broke…”; “how are you going to make up for what is lost”; or “how can you guarantee what was available before with 1/3 of the money”? No governor will relish this task.

8      Gap between the closing down DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards, and the starting up of new disability councils.  PIII is described as something that will continue the advocacy, systems change, and capacity building activities of DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards. Implied in such functions, right now being carried out by entities that have been in place from 20 to 40 plus years, is a place to go. People can stop by an office or check out a website to get information or help. The numbers are substantial. What will happen if there a gap between what is available now and a fully functioning new council? There are 54 million people with disabilities. They have families, friends, advocates, teachers, employers, and others who celebrate their achievements and independence and assume government will not undermine either. A lot of votes are among all these people. Faced with a possible gap or maintaining the status quo, we need not guess where governors will come down on this.

9      Getting governors to respond in a timely manner to new responsibilities associated with new councils:
a.     Selecting council members
b.     Assigning staff to prepare/submit first application
c.     Hiring staff
d.     Determining where the new council will be located organizationally
e.     Determining where the council will be located physically
f.      Determining the roles, if any, for staff of DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards, in the new council staffing structure
g.     Enacting state legislation to recognize the new council and its functions (this is usually required to allow state dollars to be spent on an entity to complement or match federal funds).

Nothing happens with lightning speed if it involves government. Creating new offices and appointing new members of an advisory body are probably the most notoriously slow examples of how governments operate.

10   Being able to plan for new councils with the uncertainty around how much money to anticipate or how many years for which to plan. Current appropriations for DD Councils, SILCs, and Advisory Boards is about a total of $103 million. Under PIII the total for a new council in each state would be $ 45 million. That would mean, if a formula based on population were used, most states would get less than $500,000 annually. Reducing what states receive by 57 percent will change what they will be able to do or offer under a new council. An added complication is that the Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Boards, unlike DD Councils and SILCs that are in all states and some territories, are only in 19 states. Will that fact be considered in any funding formula? Governors will be reluctant to act unless they are promised serious money.

11   The impact on people with the transition from three entities to one council. They will perceive that their collective voice will be weakened and their ability to bring about needed change in their communities and states will be undermined. It will probably be five to ten years before any credible results will be seen coming from a single council option.

Thank you.
common Grounder

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Reaction to a Consolidation Proposal from Administration on Community Living

Here are comments I plan to submit to the Administration on Community Living (ACL) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday, August 11, 2017. ACL is requesting stakeholder input on its idea, through legislation, to create one disability council in every state and eliminate State Developmental Disability Councils and State Independent Living Councils, and in 19 states, Advisory Boards on Traumatic Brain Injury.

Comments on the Partnership for Innovation, Inclusion, and Independence (PIII) Concept


Ø  People in the disability community, in and out of government, understand and endorse the idea that public funds should be spent to promote and realize opportunities for individuals with disabilities to be fully engaged members of their communities.
Ø  It is important to spend public funds in smart ways.
Ø  Collaboration is often the way to secure necessary expertise, stretch funding, test new ideas, and obtain meaningful results.

PIII Concept

Ø  Eliminates two councils (State Developmental Disabilities Councils and State Independent Living Councils in all states and territories) and one advisory board (State Advisory Boards on traumatic brain injury in 19 states) that serve largely distinct populations.
Ø  Requires that the three be replaced by one disability council in each state.
Ø  Offers $45 million (a 43% cut) to continue serving the populations being served (Current funding is about $106 million for the councils and boards.).
Ø  Appears to assume that provisions in the three laws authorizing councils and boards could be drawn upon to draft, for the new disability council, – membership requirements, operating procedures, and programmatic choices related to systems change and capacity building.
Ø  Assumes, with a promise of modest funding which has yet to be projected on a state by state basis, governors will close down existing councils and boards, stop funding activities they sponsor, spend time finding and appointing new council members, and have sufficient funding to impact positively on populations that previously benefited from individual consideration and more funding targeted at their needs.

Challenges to PIII’s successful realization

Ø  All three programs have a long and proud history – the State DD Councils were created over 40 year years ago, State Independent Living Councils over 30 years ago, and the TBI Advisory Councils in the 1990s. Around these three entities there are powerful associations, constituents with expectations and voices, and congressional supporters.
Ø  Substantial public negative feedback to the elimination of these three programs may be anticipated. The argument “just to save $50 million and harm people with disabilities” will be seen a lot on social media.
Ø  Congressional action to bring about PIII, especially in the Senate on the HELP Committee, is highly unlikely, because of its bipartisan commitment to health care reform, which has already started.

An Alternative to PIII

Instead of dismantling three popular programs, test the power of collaboration among them by:

Ø  Funding demonstration projects, asking all three to collaborate on one initiative;
Ø  Asking a project to focus on one of three initiatives:
o   Education on benefits planning,
o   Helping youth in transition from high school to post-secondary education, vocational training, or employment;
o   Helping job seekers obtain and maintain competitive and integrated employment;
Ø  Ensuring that individuals with developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury, and other significant disabilities participate in each project;
Ø  Securing funding contributions from other federal agencies to fund the projects;
Ø  Documenting and evaluating the projects to determine if it is effective and efficient, worth replicating nationwide.

Benefits of the Alternative to PIII

Ø  Federal lead to bring about new partnerships in states and within the federal government (funding partners could be drawn from Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services as well as from the Social Security Administration);
Ø  Basis for a creative and constructive dialogue between ACL and the disability community

Ø  Potential opportunity for CILs, as project sites, to broaden their expertise and client pool, and for professionals, family members, and self-advocates help them do it.

If you like this alternative, email: Use Alternative to PIII as your reference to my idea

Thank you,
Common Grounder