Ask Governor Murphy to Fund Independent Living!

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New Jersey’s Centers for Independent Living are a vital part of the disability community, yet are consistently underfunded. For this reason, the New Jersey Association of Centers for Independent Living is asking for state funding in the amount of 4 million dollars to be divided amongst the 11 Centers across New Jersey. Please sign our letter endorsing our efforts and showing the Governor the importance of disability-led organizations!

Full Text of Letter:

Dear Governor Murphy,

We, as individuals with disabilities and our allies across New Jersey, write to request that a line item of 4 million dollars in the state’s budget be dedicated to the 11 Centers for Independent Living (CILs) across New Jersey.

New Jersey’s CILs are private, non-residential, not-for-profit, community-based, grassroots organizations created under Title VII of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (As Amended) to assist people with disabilities to develop the skills needed to reach optimal independence in their lives. There are 11 CILs across New Jersey serving every county and legislative district, and over 500 CILs throughout the United States.

Last year, over 32,400 individuals with disabilities and their families were assisted through CILs in NJ. All CILs are mandated to provide 5 Core Services: Information and Referral, Advocacy, Peer Support, Independent Living Skills, and Transition Services. CILs serve individuals of all ages and all disabilities, their families and caregivers.

CILs offer a unique approach to assisting individuals with disabilities. CILs have no income requirements, do not charge for their Core Services, and do not turn away anyone seeking services. In addition, 51% or more of board/staff by regulations are individuals with disabilities and promote the philosophy of Independent Living. Individuals seeking Core Services receive intensive individualized guidance, service coordination, advocacy and support services to achieve their independent living goals.

However, as the population of people with disabilities in NJ has increased, the demand for services has also increased. CILs are often asked to do more with less resources while responding to the expanding needs of our constituency. For example, CILs are now required to provide transitional services, i.e., helping high school students who have exited the public entitlement system prepare for adult life; assisting individuals transitioning from institutional to community living; also providing diversionary supports to avert institutional settings, the Centers did not get an increase in funding to implement this multi-dimensional mandated core service. These very critical, yet costly services essentially exist now as an unfunded mandate with CILs largely unable to effectively implement and execute.

A critical characteristic of NJ Centers' operations is that they all augment the existing state human services delivery infrastructure across a wide array of programs and services. These essential services help to reduce the burden on state agencies already over-taxed. I urge you to support the NJ Association of Centers for Independent Living (NJACIL) proposal of a permanent line item of 4 million dollars in the state’s budget for New Jersey's 11 Centers, starting with FY 2019/2020. This budgetary initiative will enhance their capacity to assist New Jersey citizens with disabilities, while maintaining their existing role as an integral part of NJ's Human Services System.

We, the disability community of New Jersey, attest to the value of CILs and the impact that the Independent Living Movement makes on all of our lives every day. We urge you to support the needs and autonomy of our community by including this line item in your draft of the 2019-20 budget.

Posted on February 22, 2019 and filed under Advocacy.