Budget cuts will hurt disabled

Don't balance Maryland's budget on backs of disabled

Before Gov. Martin O'Malley left office, he cut funding that my colleagues and I were counting on to stay ahead of minimum wage. Now, Gov. Larry Hogan is doing the same thing with the new budget. People in my profession are not state employees, but we are doing work that is the responsibility of the state. Maryland doesn't seem to take that seriously because we are paid as the lowest of the low among our comparable peers in health care, elder care and the like.

These cuts broke an important agreement that last year's legislature passed. That does not seem right.

I am a professional and — no offense to workers who earn minimum wage — what I do requires knowledge and skill at a very high level that is not typically required at minimum wage work.

I administer medications. I assist with bathing and bathroom needs. I manage a household and ensure personal safety for three individuals with complex needs. I manage their health care appointments, visits with elderly parents and brothers and sisters who work full-time and have their own families, outings in the community and countless state requirements to guarantee health and safety.

I love what I do and care about the people I support as much as I know they care about me. But Governor Hogan's budget seems to be saying that people with developmental disabilities don't deserve professional care. A lot of good people have already left this field because they could not afford to stay. I want to stay, but sometimes wonder if I can. The staff turnover is not good for the people we support, and it's increasingly difficult for our agency to attract the qualified staff our people deserve.

It's not fair to ask such low-paid workers to take a hit to balance the state budget. The governor and the General Assembly need to act now to turn this crisis around.

Charlene Smith-Scott, Baltimore

The writer is employed with The Arc Baltimore.

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