The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) will reduce or eliminate cash payments to approximately 1,250 elderly, blind, or disabled Idahoans in July to save $1.1 million in the state’s cash assistance program. The affected people are part of the Aid to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (AABD) program, which provides cash to pay for people’s everyday living expenses.
“We regret having to take these actions, but we simply do not have the funds to continue the program at the current level,” said Russ Barron, DHW’s administrator for the Division of Welfare.
Most of the 14,700 people participating in AABD will continue to receive $53 a month, or $636 a year, from the state in the program, though some recipients get larger amounts. The 1,250 people affected by the new DHW rules will see a reduction of between $33 a month and $198 a month.Approximately 300 people with development disabilities living in certified family homes will lose $198 a month, or $2,376 a year, in state money, but will still receive payments from Social Security, which is federally funded, and health insurance from Medicaid, which is largely funded by federal tax dollars.
"Idaho has actually been one of the better-paying states," said DHW spokesman Tom Shanahan, "but in the budget times that we're in, we can't afford to keep it up, especially when the program keeps growing." AABD enrollment has increased 40 percent in the past decade. Shanahan said more people in the baby boomer generation reaching retirement has fueled that increase. "A lot of them don't have funding and they do need help. They do need cash assistance."
DHW will notify the people that will lose monthly checks from the state via mail in June. People who receive assistance from both AABD and Idaho’s food stamp program could see higher benefits from food stamps due to a lower income because of the AABD reduction.
Earlier this year, Idaho lawmakers reduced the state's portion of the Welfare budget $4 million for the next fiscal year, which begins in July. The federal portion of Welfare spending in Idaho will drop $41 million from the current fiscal year spending.
DHW has announced plans to close nine offices and lay off 126 employees to meet other budget reductions. Shanahan said the biggest budget task looming before DHW is finding reductions in Medicaid spending. "We've got over a $200 million deficit there," he said. DHW is in regular meetings with Medicaid providers to find reductions in cost or services. "A lot of this stuff is going to happen in the month of May It's going to happen pretty quick, to tell you the truth." The next fiscal year starts July 1, and DHW will need to approve rules for changes to Medicaid programs to reach savings.