Disability Services Fight State Budget Cuts

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 - 6:44pm

An agency that helps the disabled lead independent lives is fighting back against the state budget cuts. In fact, the organization is refusing to comply with new regulations.

Last month more than 40% of funding for Resources for Independent Living were supposed to be cut, but this nonprofit organization says they’re not backing down anytime soon.

Everyday thousands of people living in Louisiana with disabilities rely heavily on Resources for Independent Living, a program funded primarily by the state. Without R.I.L., people like Pauline Greirson a former resource caretaker would end up in a nursing home. “I think healthy people don’t know what it’s like to lose your ability to do your normal everyday thing.”

Over the last few months, the organization’s been fighting to stay a float. Out of the $2.2 million state budget cuts, R.I.L. stands to lose more than 40% of its funding. Darrel McCray lost the use of his legs in a car accident 11 years ago. He says there’s no way he can afford his medical assistance without the program. “We’re not asking any more money, we’re just actually asking just to keep the money we have.” This man says he was supposed to get a new wheelchair ramp through the program, but with the money shortage, it may never happen.

Yavonka Archaga, the Executive Director for the program, says she can’t understand why so much has been taken, especially since R.I.L. saves the state about $100 million. “It cost on an average $45,000 person to be institutionalized and for individuals to stay in their home, it’s costing us anything from $47 depending on the need up to $1,600.”

Refusing to sign any of the amending contracts, R.I.L. says it will continue to fight until changes are made. We were told that more than 4,000 people are waiting for assistance from R.I.L., but because of cutbacks and the boycott, the organization just can’t get to any of them. R.I.L. will be meeting with the Department of Social Services sometime this week.