Throughout the month of April, we will be sharing resources for people with autism, their families, and those who work with and support them through our social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Along with our friends at the Ohio Interagency Work Group on Autism (IWGA), we will be using the hashtags #KnowMoreDoMore, #AutismAwareness, and #AutismAcceptance.
Our Policy Team and IWGA are working to promote April as the time for people to better understand, to accept, and to take action to inspire change and promote access for individuals with autism and those who love, work with, teach, and support them. The Know More. Do More. theme encourages Ohioans to actively seek out resources and information to become better informed about the challenges and opportunities related to autism. By moving beyond just being aware to acceptance and taking action, we can ensure we are all doing our part.
Later this month, all households in Ohio and across the country will be receiving packets from the US Census to complete. The census data is used to allocate one and a half trillion dollars every year, by formula.
It is critical that all households report this data, and especially households with children with disabilities. When we fail to complete the Census accurately, we lose funding for Ohio’s programs – and lost dollars mean overcrowded classrooms, underfunded services, hungrier children, inadequate health care — big problems for most communities, and particularly for children with disabilities. Our kids lose when vital community resources dwindle – and these resources are critical to the success of all children.
If we get it wrong in 2020, today’s preschoolers will lose needed resources for a decade–the majority of their childhood. And the amount of dollars lost would be staggering. We now know that following the 2010 Census, so many young children were missed that states collectively lost over half a billion dollars a year in funding from just five programs: Medicaid, CHIP, foster care, adoption assistance and child care. On average, school districts lost $1695 per year for every child they missed.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg: more than 300 federal programs use census data to determine how federal funds are allocated to state and local governments. These programs cover necessities such as schools, child care, children’s health insurance, roads and highways, school meals programs, housing assistance, and a variety of other areas. There are other consequences too. New schools may not be built because of a lack of accurate data. Businesses may choose not to open grocery stores in underserved areas. Families and communities will not gain their fair share of political representation in elected bodies ranging all the way from school boards to Congress.
There is more information available on the State of Ohio’s website (https://development.ohio.gov/census2020/), but the bottom line is – encourage everyone you know, and especially those with children or children with disabilities to complete the Census – we all count, so we should all be counted!
April is a busy month at OCALI, as it is Autism Awareness and Acceptance month. In fact, the team put together a communications toolkit for various agencies within the Interagency Work Group on Autism to use to raise awareness and acceptance within their key audiences. Additionally, there will be a joint meeting of the Interagency Work Group on Autism and the Employment First Taskforce that will be attended by agency Directors in April.
In addition to work around Autism Awareness and Acceptance month, there are several key pieces of legislation at the Ohio Statehouse that OCALI’s policy team is engaged in, including the state biennial budget.
Governor DeWine introduced his proposed state budget on March 15, and informal testimony by members of his cabinet and others began on March 20. On March 25, the official “budget bill,” House Bill 166 was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives, and was referred immediately to the House Finance Committee, where formal testimony began.
If you’re interested in seeing the budget, related documents, or understanding the budget process, check out these resources:
The Office of Policy has been keeping up with the budget process by attending informal and formal testimony; conducting a thorough review of the budget provisions; attending meetings with key members of Governor DeWine’s administration and state legislators; and participating in key stakeholder/coalition meetings. In every meeting, the team’s goal is to ensure research, evidence-based best practices and the real-life needs of individuals with disabilities and their families are at the forefront of conversations about services, programs and policy decisions.
The team is also keeping an eye on three key pieces of proposed state and federal legislation, including including House Bill 166, which focuses on funding for services for multi-system youth, autism and early intervention; the Ohio Fair School Funding Plan; and the Autism Cares Act.