Monday, December 28, 2009

Hawaii -- deficit plus stimulus funds shouldn't equal a bigger deficit, should it?

The Honolulu bureau of the Associated Press ran a great article a week ago on the impact Hawaii's $1 billion budget deficit was having on education and others in need.

According to the official web site for the American Recovery Act, which tracks the money going out to the states as well as what the states admit to having, Hawaii reported receiving $811.9 million by October 30, 2009. 

The feds say they've awarded Hawaii $1.2 billion in contracts, grants and loans.  Over $1 billion of that is in grants.  One source I found said Hawaii had only received about 40% of the funds, but it's approved. 

Not to mention that the $1 billion projected deficit is by 2011, and we're talking money in the bank now with lots more on the way.

I've asked CMS (the Medicaid federal regulatory people) about this and have been met with evasive responses.  Having personally lived in Washington D.C. for 8 years, I can tell you that evasion from government employees is not a positive indication.

So with education being cut by a day a week and elderly and disabled people being threatened with institutionalization, what's the money being spent on?

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I'm the mom of a child with disabilities. Hannah's first neurologist said she might never develop beyond the level of a 2 month old infant, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. The brain damage was just too severe. Nine years later, she walks, uses a touchscreen computer and I've just been shown she can learn to construct sentences and do simple math with the right piece of technology. Along the way, I discovered I needed to teach myself what Hannah's rights to services really were. Learning about early intervention services led to reading about IDEA and then to EPSDT. I've been waiting for the Obama administration to realize the power and potential of EPSDT for the medical rights - including the right to stay at home with their families - of children with disabilities. The health reform people talk about long term care, and the disability people talk about education and employment, but nobody is talking about EPSDT. So I am.