Editor's note: the original version of this story was edited to reflect the governor's approval of the budget and details of the implementation process.
Governor Ron DeSantis has signed the Florida Legislature's budget that included a long-awaited raise for direct support workers who provide Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) and other APD funding increases. Last year, Gov. DeSantis vetoed a smaller raise for these workers.
The following provides details from the budget as well as an overall wrap up of how people with disabilities fared in the 2022 legislative session.
Provider Rate Increases/Pay Fair for My Care: In possibly the best news to come out of session for those with disabilities, a $15 an hour minimum was approved by both the house and senate for Direct Support Professionals working with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Additionally, enough funding to move about 11,000 people off of the Medicaid waiver waitlist was also provided, as was $8.5 million for dental services. This was a direct result of self and other advocacy efforts around the state and is something to be proud of. Self-advocates are strongly encouraged to email their legislators, thanking them for the increase.
So far, details of the funding and implementation process are as follows: The funds which will be distributed through an application process by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) will prioritize funds for iBudget Florida providers, followed by long-term and managed care providers. Each provider will be notified in writing of any award available to them, and funding will be distributed by June 30, 2023.
There are also one-time payments available for HCBS providers who are or employ independent contractors to provide services. Eligible providers should apply by May 20, 2022.
More information can be found here.
Supported Decision-Making: Although a supported decision-making law did not pass, a lot of progress was made. It typically takes three cycles for bills to pass, so it's important to keep advocating. Also, remember that it is possible to use and obtain an SDM agreement currently, even without a law. Visit idecideflorida.org for more information on the campaign to pass SDM legislation that would make supported decision-making a more viable option to guardianship.
Medicaid Expansion/Buy-in: This year’s buy-in bill died in committee but made more bipartisan progress than expected, meaning that the next year offers more advocacy opportunities on this issue.
For a longer list of the bills related to people with disabilities and where they landed this session check out the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council’s final Capitol Update, and don’t forget to thank our lawmakers and keep advocating.