Gov. Perdue Announces Solution to the Group Home Shortfall Created by the General Assembly
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Gov. Perdue Announces Solution to the Group Home Shortfall Created by the General Assembly

New Changes for Special Care Units Also Addressed

December 19, 2012 – (RealEstateRama) — Gov. Bev Perdue today announced her proposed solution for the consequences of a change in the way residents in group homes qualify for Medicaid-funded personal care services (PCS). The change is a result of the General Assembly’s budget and will lead to a significant number of group home residents seeing their PCS funding eliminated. Without that funding, which makes up a significant part of group homes’ operating income, they will be forced to close, leaving countless homeless.

“For the last month, my staff and I have been working to find a solution to this problem,” said Gov. Perdue. “It is unacceptable to me that residents of some group homes – among the most vulnerable people in our state – could be homeless while we wait for the General Assembly to come into session next month and fix this problem.”

The General Assembly allocated $39.7 million to assist the adult care home industry with funding losses from the PCS change; however, group homes were excluded from the financial assistance.

Gov. Perdue today directed Sec. Al Delia to identify one-time funds in the amount of $1 million from the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ budget, in accordance with the provisions of the State Budget Act, which allow her to act due to unforeseen events. The fund will be made available for the period covering Jan. 1 through Jan. 31, 2013, for the purpose of keeping group home residents in their homes. The governor has been assured by staff and agency employees that this amount of money will be sufficient to accomplish this objective.

In her proposed biennial budget for 2014 and 2015, Gov. Perdue also recommended the continuation of the $39.7 million for the adult care homes and urged that it be expanded to include the group home resident populations as well. She submitted that budget to Gov.-elect McCrory over the weekend.

The General Assembly will reconvene in January and Gov. Perdue urges them to immediately revisit this issue and pass legislation that will provide a long-term solution to this problem and prevent these vulnerable North Carolinians from losing a roof over their heads.

“Over the past few weeks, it has been made clear to me both that this threat is very real and that the General Assembly as a whole was not aware at the time its budget passed that this policy change could result in residents being made homeless,” said Perdue.

The Governor believes it was a bad policy decision for the General Assembly to exclude group homes from accessing the $39.7 million in the current state fiscal year, but her powers as governor do not allow her to rewrite legislation. However, the State Budget Act does give her the authority to move funds within an agency’s budget under certain circumstances.

One of those circumstances exists where unforeseen events occur that make it necessary to provide additional funding for a specific program or purpose. In this instance, while it was known at the time the General Assembly enacted its budget that some residents in group homes would lose funding for personal care services, it was not known that residents would immediately face the risk of homelessness as is being reported to the Governor by group home operators.

Additionally, the Governor is aware of the possibility that some group home residents may be able to avoid eviction in the short-term by filing appeals in the Office Administrative Hearings. However, for those who find themselves without a home, this amount of money will allow them to remain in their group homes at least through the end of January.

In addition to the group homes solution, the Governor also addressed Special Care Unit (SCU) residents with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Under the new state law, those residents in SCUs who are eligible for personal care services will receive fewer hours of service. Therefore, SCUs stand to lose millions of dollars, putting residents at risk of being homeless.

It’s expected that many recipients will appeal these decisions and, under federal guidelines, those recipients are eligible to receive continued services during the appeal. However, they can only receive services at the new lower rate.

To attempt to remedy this challenge, DHHS will contact the federal government in the coming days, to ask the federal government to allow – during appeals – recipients to receive their current level of service and for the providers to receive their current level of reimbursement. This temporary measure could avert a crisis for any residents until the General Assembly is back in session and able to address this matter.

Chris Mackey