Serving the most needy while being efficient with your tax dollars
Have you noticed how the debate about government budgets sometimes turns into whether to take care of the poor or whether to be smart with taxpayers' dollars? Since when did these things become mutually exclusive?
I believe we can serve the most needy in our communities while being smart with tax dollars by ensuring those dollars are used to directly benefit people, instead of getting caught up in bureaucracy. There are a couple of good examples of state programs responsibly getting dollars to recipients and truly making a difference.
The Family Caregiver Support Program through the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) provides local support and resources to unpaid caregivers of adults needing care. Family members caring for disabled or elderly family members can easily get burnt out. The program provides counseling, training, and even respite care so caregivers can take a break. Each year, the state spends $10 million on this program. However, these unpaid caregivers are saving the state money by not having their loved one placed in the state's care. Providing them support is the least we can do, and keeping people with disabilities and the elderly in a community with loved ones is the best thing for them.
The Individual and Family Services Program, also through DSHS, provides support for families who chose to have their loved ones with developmental disabilities live at home rather than in a residential habilitation center. This is another program saving taxpayer dollars by helping people with special needs live at home rather than under full-time state care. Each person in the program receives an assessment to determine their level of need. Based on that need, DSHS provides an allocation to the family to use for things like therapy, home or vehicle modifications, transportation, respite care, equipment, and specialized nutrition and clothing. In the 2013-15 budget, the state allocated $10 million for the program. This funding is provided directly to the families for these approved uses and directly benefits the person needing extra care.
Programs like Family Caregiver Support and Individual and Family Services provide help to the most vulnerable in our communities – people who cannot care exclusively for themselves. Funding for these is not only the right thing to do, it is the financially smart thing to do as a state.