I hope that you are all doing well during this time of great change. Not only have we dealt with a global pandemic, economic chaos and a state primary election riddled with criticism – but now we are witnessing people in the streets asking for justice and equity. Never in many of our lifetimes have we seen an outcry of this scale in the United States. Indeed, this week, this month and this year have been difficult. Still, the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) continues to stand in solidarity with those around the world who speak out against systemic racism.
While I am not a person of color and have not experienced the same kind of oppression as many people in our state and country, I have listened and tried to learn and understand. Like many of you, we continue to fight for change. But how can we work toward meaningful change? Through dialogue, such as those supported by the GCDD Real Communities’ Social Justice Dialogues. And through the ballot box and voting for those who are working toward a more peaceful and loving society. Even with the disorder Georgia experienced in June during the primary election, there were examples of people working together to make sure everyone in line was supported.
This edition of Making a Difference covers many of the issues discussed above. We continue to be involved in working to ensure people have information concerning COVID-19 through joining the Georgia Developmental Disabilities Network in hosting bi-weekly Zoom calls and compiling curated online resources. Over 1,100 people have signed up to join us to address how the virus is impacting their lives and the supports they need. If you have not been a part of these calls, it is not too late to join.
On the legislative front, because of COVID-19, the Georgia General Assembly did not complete its 2020 legislative session as planned. This means that state senators and representatives were unable to further discuss specific legislation and pass a budget by April, as they typically do. The only constitutional requirement of the General Assembly is to pass an annual budget, which needed to take place so the state could begin its fiscal year on July 1.
The General Assembly began its extended session on Monday, June 15 and held virtual appropriations meetings before then. Among the legislators’ priorities was discussing how to cut agency budgets significantly. For people with developmental disabilities, these cuts affected funding for NOW/COMP waivers, family support services and other supports. Despite some reinstatements to the budget, we still believe the state should look at other sources of revenue, such as a tobacco tax increase, to cover this revenue deficit.
Finally, GCDD is about to undertake a five-year planning process. We need to determine the kinds of efforts we will support over the next five years. We need you to be involved. There will be a number of ways that you can provide input into the process over the next year. Make sure that your voice is heard. Check out GCDD’s website, and join our advocacy network so that you can stay informed.
We hope you enjoy reading this magazine, and we want to hear from you.
Let us know your thoughts by writing to Managing Editor Hillary Hibben at firstname.lastname@example.org.