Sign up for budget cuts discussion by Friday, January 21st

The Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment will host a webinar for the public Friday regarding a broad range of budget issues that affect people with disabilities.

David Lord, director of public policy for Disability Rights Washington, is one of the Webinar’s six panelists, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon. People can register for the event online, and registration is free.

A number of issues will be addressed, including income assistance, health care and aging and disability programs, as well as disability community impacts and coordination efforts. The Webinar will also address a range of programs recently eliminated, as of Jan. 1. These include Medicare coverage for dental, hearing and vision care, the Disability Lifeline program, which provides assistance for people with disabilities unable to work, and the state’s Basic Health Care plan, which provided coverage for low-income people not eligible for Medicare.

Lord said these cuts will have a boomerang effect by trading essential preventative care for far more costly treatments in the future.

“It will come back to bite,” he said. “If there’s no physical therapy then you will end up in a nursing home, same thing with dental. We need to focus on what we can do to stop this.”

Disability Rights Washington encourages the public to become involved in the legislative process.

“People need to share their stories and not be overwhelmed and discouraged, and remember that your story and your relationship with your legislator is the most important part of your advocacy,” said Andrea Kadlec, director of community relations with Disability Rights Washington.

A number of vigils have been held around the state during the past month, following a run of protests statewide in mid-November.

On Jan. 4, dozens of people protested up in the snow for a vigil in Tacoma and Spokane.

On Jan. 6, vigils were held in Seattle at Westlake Park, followed by a two vigils the next day southwest Washington.

Lord said about 40 to 50 people attended the vigil in Vancouver, which was held at a parking lot near a shopping mall. He said people were most concerned about cuts to home care services, and the fear of future cuts to other long-standing programs.

“The public, the media and legislators and other policy makers in the governor’s office need to hear from you about the cuts that will affect you personally,” Lord told the crowd. “They don’t want to hurt the people who are most vulnerable to the effects of these cuts: children, senior citizens and people with disabilities. You need to tell them.”

Another protest was held in Bremerton on Jan. 12.