NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A program that helps thousands of Tennesseans with disabilities could be eliminated due to state budget cuts.
The Family Support Program under the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) started in 1992 and helped around 4,671 families across the state in 2019. The program assists people of all ages, with various physical and intellectual disabilities, and there is no income requirement. Families apply each year, and most receive $1,300 a year to help cover costs of respite care, reimbursement for mileage to and from doctor's appointments, and medical supplies that aren't covered by insurance.
After state lawmakers approved a $39 billion budget, which includes 12 percent cuts for every state department, the $7.4 million program could be in danger. Now advocates and families are worried.
"This small amount of funding goes a long way for families who need it," said Sarah Sampson, Deputy Director of the Tennessee Disability Coalition. "Without the Family Support Program, they don't have another option to pay for things that the program pays for."
Houston County resident Jefferey Cox has been enrolled in the program for the last two years. He was paralyzed from the neck down after making a tackle during a high school football game in 2018. His mom says the program has been a huge help to their family.
"This program may seem small to some people, but to us, it's a big deal," said Alicia Parker. "It's not just us. There are many families who take advantage of it because they have to have it."
Parker said they were eligible for $3,400 a year that has helped cover the cost of trips to doctor's appointments and medical equipment. She said it would be very disappointing if the program was cut.
"We would have to find a way to come up with that money," said Parker.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities said in a statement: “As DIDD examines any potential reductions, we are reviewing all of our programs to ensure the maximum number of persons served in the most efficient way possible. No final decisions have been made, but our primary goal is to minimize the impact on persons served across the state.”
Sampson said she thought a final decision on the program could be made by July.
"It's nerve-racking because so many people are counting on this," said Sampson.