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Weekly Address — January 23, 2020

From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.

About 2,800 people with disabilities get home care in Arkansas through a program called Independent Choices.

The state Human Services Department has changed course and will not reduce their hours of care, as we had feared back in December.

DHS officials had planned to reduce hours because of the increase in minimum wages that took effect at the beginning of the year. Raising the pay of home care workers would have put the program slightly over budget, so they initially planned to cut back on hours.

In my opinion, it was a terrible mistake to give workers a small pay raise, only to reduce their hours. The bottom line is that their paychecks would be smaller.

People with disabilities would get less help, such as helping them bathe, prepare meals and clean house.

Advocacy groups spoke against the move, while newspaper articles made people aware of the issue.

It didn’t take long for DHS officials to fix the problem. They found savings in other areas, and are now able to pay home care workers the new minimum wage, without any reduction in services.

It’s tempting to say “All’s well that ends well,” and move on to other matters.

But it’s frustrating all the same. People with special needs were led to believe that a government agency was going to balance its budget by cutting services.

They had to tighten their belts and prepare for setbacks, all during the Christmas holidays.

Yes, the problem was fixed, because our system of government is responsive to the opinions expressed by constituents.

But it all could have been avoided if bureaucrats at DHS had made people a priority over budgets.

From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.


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