February 14, 2014 Legislative Update

An attempt to make auxiliary grants more flexible was defeated in subcommittee in the House.  HB 894, offered by Delegate Peace, would have expanded eligibility for auxiliary grants.  Auxiliary grants provide supplemental income for recipients of Supplemental Security Income residing in a licensed assisted living facility.  Auxiliary grant programs are funded 80% by the state and 20% by localities.

Currently, auxiliary grants may be used only in assisted living facilities. HB 894 would have allowed the grants to be used by Social Security recipients living in licensed supportive housing, also.

Although the legislation only sought to allow the use of the grant in additional locations and did not require that any additional people receive the grant, the bill was defeated due to assumed higher costs.  Many jurisdictions noted there would be no additional costs or only negligible costs, especially if the change did not result in any additional people participating in the program.  However, some local jurisdictions claimed that the cost of the expansion would be prohibitive.  The City of Lynchburg claimed it would cost them more than $200,000 if additional locations were included in the auxiliary grant program.

The Department of Planning and Budget also estimated a substantial price tag for the bill, again on the assumption that additional people would be added to the program.  Estimating that the expansion would mean offering the grant to an additional 1700 individuals, and would require additional administrative costs, DPB estimated eventual additional annual costs of almost 9 million dollars.

Some advocacy groups, most notably the National Alliance on Mental Illness Virginia, assert that the restricted use of the auxiliary grant program effectively segregates individuals into large settings akin to institutions, and thus violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.  While HB 984 would not have eliminated all objections to the way the program is administered in Virginia, the legislation would have allowed for some greater integration for individuals with disabilities using the program.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia supports full integration of people with disabilities in the Commonwealth.  The mission of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia is, through zealous and effective advocacy and legal representation, to protect and advance legal, human, and civil rights of persons with disabilities; combat and prevent abuse, neglect, and discrimination; and promote independence, choice, and self-determination by persons with disabilities.  Contact us at info@dLCV.org or at 1-800-552-3962 for more information.