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Funding for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities at Risk

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has notified Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the Department’s intention to terminate approximately $900,000 provided annually under a federal grant program knows as Protection and Advocacy for Personas with Developmental Disabilities (PADD).

The loss of $900,000 would also have a snowball effect, as explained by Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress, who released the news.  The termination of the initial $900,000 would jeopardize approximately $2.3 million of annual funding from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the Puerto Rico Council on Developmental Disabilities.  The action would also place at risk roughly $1 million that the Puerto Rico Office of the Ombudsman for Persons with Disabilities (OPPI) receives under other grant programs administered by HHS, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Social Security Administration.  Altogether, approximately $4 million annually is at stake for people with developmental disabilities in Puerto Rico and their caretakers.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the agency in Puerto Rico in danger of losing funding have both contacted the office of Governor Garcia-Padilla repeatedly in an attempt to work out a plan for correction of the irregularities which are threatening the funding, but the governor has, according to the information provided to Pierluisi by the funding agency, failed to take action.

“[The agencies] attempted on multiple occasions to meet and speak with the Governor, the Governor’s staff, and officials at the Puerto Rico Office of Management and Budget,” says Pierlusi.  “[These] efforts were either ignored or proved fruitless, failing to result in the Puerto Rico government taking actions that would prevent the termination of funding.”

The special needs include care for individuals with autism, Down Syndrome, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays. Puerto Rico reports almost twice the percentage of students with disabilities as the U.S. average, according to the U.S. Department of Education, and developmental disabilities are among the most common disabilities reported.

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