July 19, 2017; Hartford Courant
Yet another state has failed to pass a budget by July 1st. Connecticut’s legislature has reached a stalemate regarding how to close an estimated $2.3 billion deficit for the year. Ironically, in the absence of a budget, the state is projected to increase that deficit to $3 billion. Unfortunately, the impacts of this budget impasse are not felt by everyone evenly. NPQ has seen repeatedly that in states where a budget is not passed, nonprofit organizations are hit hard, with human services organizations being among the hardest hit. Connecticut is no exception to this trend.
For individuals and families relying on human services organizations for daily living, this situation is particularly worrisome. The Connecticut Department of Social Services has already eliminated funding for 26 nonprofit organizations in order to save the state $1.8 million. Other organizations that offer direct care have received funding reductions as opposed to being cut. Still, these reductions have resulted in furloughs and fewer staff available to meet the needs of the constituents they serve.
To remedy this issue, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has asked the legislature, but was denied, to approve a 90-day budget that would allow his administration to fund nonprofit organizations that are at risk of destabilization or shutting down amidst the budget impasse. Frustrated with the lack of progress, disabilities advocates from across the state gathered in the Legislative Offices Building earlier this week to put pressure on legislators to not only pass a budget, but to ensure that significant cuts to social services programs do not occur. As many of these advocates may face experience life-altering situations if their services are cut, the day was naturally emotionally charged. Five of these advocates were even arrested and charged with trespassing after they staged a protest outside of Governor Malloy’s office.
Melissa Marshall, one of the five arrested, said, “We came here (the state capitol) today with the intention of being arrested. We’ve tried protesting the budget in normal ways, by speaking out. It hasn’t worked. When that happens, civil disobedience is what you do next.”
Another advocate, Elaine Kolb, implored legislators to understand that budget cuts have significant and real impacts in the lives of the state’s most vulnerable. She said, “There are so many things that have been cut in the state budgets over the past few years that will cause low income people, and people with disabilities, to not only suffer, but possibly die.”
While some representatives did not react to the protest favorably, others encouraged the advocates to continue their work. Senate Republican President Len Fasano invigorated the crowd, saying in a press conference, “You have to stand up and say we’re not going to take it. You need to get a commitment that they will not cut those programs.”—Sheela Nimishakavi