Cuts to the Medicare Savings Program would devastate thousands of elderly, low-income, and disabled people in Connecticut, said Kelly Phenix, Recovery Support Specialist with the Behavioral Health Partnership Oversight Council at a June 14, 2017 press conference hosted by the CT Cross-Disability Lifespan Alliance at the legislative office building.
The recent proposal by the Governor and legislators would eliminate 145,000 people from the Medicare Savings program, leaving those that made $12,060 and under in the program.
Cuts to SAGA Program Could be Coming
The Governor also proposed to eliminate the SAGA Cash program for about 7,000 people. The State Administered General Assistance (SAGA) program is a cash program for those who: cannot work, have no dependents, have no other source of income, have a documented temporary or long-term, physical or mental condition. People waiting for a final SSI decision, which could take up to two years, depend upon this assistance. The maximum SAGA benefit is: $219 a month if a recipient has housing costs and as little as $55 a month if no housing costs.
CLRP Funding Reduced to Consent Decree Level
The proposed budget would reduce the Connecticut Legal Rights Project (CLRP) funding to consent decree levels, and eliminate funds provided for DHMAS clients in legal matters concerning their housing. Kathy Flaherty, executive director of CLRP, had to cut her staff down to 10. Flaherty said that people lacking legal representation for housing will become homeless.
Other Programs to be Eliminated
It would eliminate the Community First Choice program (CFC), which closes the door to in-home supports and services for people with disabilities as well as eliminate the five CT Centers for Independent Living. It would cut $8.5 million from existing behavioral services program services. Regional Mental Health Boards would be consolidated with Regional Action Councils and then their funding would be cut. Grants for mental health, substance abuse and employment services would be cut. School based health centers would be cut.
A Proposed Solution
Instead of these cuts, the state of Connecticut could modernize an outdated sales tax system, strengthening taxes on corporations, and reforming wealth and income taxes, said Derek Thomas, Fiscal Policy Fellow, CT Voices for Children.
The state could propose to tax online sales and digital downloads. Data suggests that the sales tax has declined from 2001-2015. They can also increase top tax rate for top two tax groups. And they can increase capital gains and dividends taxes for top three tax groups. The latter two would generate a half billion in new revenue.