Human services funding was a major talking point Saturday during a public hearing before Fairfax County’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly.
About 70 residents and stakeholders gathered at Fairfax County Government Center to speak during the nearly four-hour hearing, advocating for programs including family services funding, the Northern Virginia Training Center and Medicaid expansion, among others.
Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, kicked off the proceedings with brief remarks to state legislators. Bulova reiterated the county’s need for transportation funding – money that many folks in Richmond don’t think will arrive – and the restoration of the "cost of competing" salary assistance program that helps the county to attract and recruit teachers.
In Gov. Bob McDonnell’s recently released fiscal year 2013-2014 budget amendments, transportation projects statewide would get $48 million from the General Fund, an unpopular notion with many legislators who believe General Fund dollars should go towards schools.
Furthermore, Bulova said the allocation wouldn’t get the job done.
“In transportation, $48 million statewide simply does not buy very much,” Bulova said. “Our fear is there will be no real solution.”
Nearly a third of the speakers showed up to plead with the delegation to rethink the closing of the Northern Virginia Training Center (NVTC).
About a year ago, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the U.S. Department of Justice reached a settlement in a three-year case finding Virginia needlessly housing some individuals with disabilities in institutions. The settlement would close the center, which houses about 200 residents, by 2015.
Kenneth Gans, a McLean resident, has a son who calls the center home. Gans said he and his wife had struggled to find their son the proper care and that NVTC is a blessing.
“You’re going to fix a problem by destroying a perfectly good place,” he said, asking where he was supposed to send his son if NVTC closes. “It’s madness. This is a bloody disaster.”
Karen Schupak, of Ashburn, urged legislators to act and slow down the closure process.
“It’s truly a matter of life and death,” she said.
Kymberly Deloatche, a resident of Falls Church, spoke to legislators with her 9-year-old son, Charlie.
Charlie has Down syndrome, and Deloatche said her family needs to see Medicaid waiver reform in order for Charlie to keep receiving the care he needs.
Deloatche said she and her husband have been through multiple caregivers and nurses, but ultimately, Charlie has only had three total weeks of 24-hour care in the seven years they have been on the waiver program.
“It sounds crazy, and it is. My job and my sanity depend on your actions,” she told legislators.
Other speakers asked legislators to look at Election Day reform, after long lines and wait times forced some Fairfax County residents to leave the polls without voting.
Helen Kelly, a representative for the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area, urged the delegation to consider no-excuse absentee voting and online voter registration.
“Our vote is our voice,” she said. “Let’s make sure Virginia’s voices are heard.”
Donald Joy, a parent concerned for his son’s safety after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., spoke to the delegation about stationing armed police officers at all Fairfax County public schools.
Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed such legislation weeks ago, but it was met with harsh criticism from many Virginia politicians.
The General Assembly’s 2013 session begins Wednesday in Richmond.