DHR secretary withdraws regulatory change targeting disabled poor

Maryland Dept. of Human Resources Secretary Brenda Donald has withdrawn the planned changes to the Temporary Disability Assistance Program.  Donald, in a letter to Jeff Singer, CEO of Baltimore’s Health Care for the Homeless,  stated that the department had informed the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee earlier this month that the department was formally withdrawing the COMAR changes originally announced on Sept. 11.

“The withdrawal is welcome news for roughly 3,000 TDAP recipients who were scheduled for immediate cut-off in January, 2010, when the regulations were expected to go into effect,” said J. Peter Sabonis, assistant director of advocacy for income security at Maryland Legal Aid.  “Another 2,000 or more would have been cut off in February, 2010, as the plan’s 24 month limitation on TDAP assistance would have progressively trimmed the program’s current TDAP caseload of 18,000, 85 percent of whom receive assistance because of  ‘long-term’ disabilities.

“The move suggests that DHR, which faced an $8 million FY2010 deficit in the program, has submitted the shortfall to the governor to be included as a ‘deficiency appropriation’ for FY2010 in the FY2011 budget,” Sabonis continued.  “It does not, however, remove TDAP or any other DHR program from potential cuts in an FY2011 budget that most believe will need at least $2 billion worth of trimming–almost 15 percent of the state budget.”

Over $1 billion already has been cut in FY2010 through emergency action by the governor, treasurer and comptroller (the Board of Public Works), he added.

“State spending is now at 2007 levels,” Sabonis noted.  “DHR and DHMH, like most state agencies, were asked to submit cost-saving proposals to the governor, despite the fact that cuts to their full-time staff positions in  last nine years exceeded staff cuts of all other state agencies combined.”

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