Hawaii's social service groups protest proposed budget cuts

Alex Santiago
Alex Santiago
Sandra Yoro
Sandra Yoro

By Stephanie Lum - bio | email

(HONOLULU) KHNL - Cuts to services the governor mentioned today, has social services groups on edge.

Outside the state capitol, there was a massive gathering of people with disabilities and the non-profit agencies that support them. Wearing bright green shirts, they came to send a message to lawmakers and the governor.

"You cannot balance the budget on the backs of the people," said Alex Santiago.

The group calls itself "PHOCUSED."  It stands for: Protecting Hawaii's ohana, children, underserved, elderly and disabled.

"What we are worried about is that in all of the talks that we heard, there has been very little attention being paid to the fact that as the economy goes down, the needs of the poor grow, the needs of the people with mental health and disabled continue to grow," said Santiago.

Proposed budget cuts would eliminate services like adult day-care the more than fifty agencies statewide provide to a community unable to care for themselves.

"On February 1st, 2,500 recipients of medicaid waiver services that support them to live in community based settings will get a 15 percent reduction in their service budgets," said Sandra Yoro.

The Governor says these cuts, while unfortunate, are necessary in this time of a recession.

"You have to recognize the reality is, there's still going to have to be some reduction in services over the short term at least to get through this budget crisis," Lingle said.

"It's a scary path to go down because people with disabilities literally have no voice and it's important to us as service providers to support them," said Yoro.

What has social service groups even more concerned is, this will not be the first and only round of cuts.