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May 22, 2007

Current budget would hurt services for deaf, hard of hearing Ohioans

From: Chillicothe Gazette (Opinion) - Chillicothe,OH,USA - May 22, 2007

Editor, the Gazette:

Community Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has been in existence in Portsmouth for the past 22-plus years. We serve the following counties: Ross, Pike, Scioto, Gallia, Jackson, Adams, Highland, Lawrence, Meigs and Vinton.

The biennial budget now under consideration in the Ohio Senate includes a change that could have devastating impact on the deaf and hard of hearing community in Ohio. Ohio House Bill 119 has allocated an additional $2 million to the Rehabilitation Service Commission, far below the minimum $8.5 million required to receive a fourfold federal match of $32 million. These federal funds are Ohio taxpayers' dollars sitting in Washington, D.C., waiting to come back to Ohio to help Ohioans with disabilities maintain or obtain employment.

Ohio lawmakers have supported the efforts of RSC's programs over the years and seen the proof of this important investment of taxpayer dollars for the deaf and hard of hearing: vocational rehabilitation, educational programs, life-saving and life-quality programs, networking and referral that help the deaf and hard of hearing achieve gainful employment and be a productive component of society.
The governor's administration has made this cut in RSC funding as well as a line-item allocation for Community Centers for the Deaf that must be addressed if these important services are to continue. Providing the minimum required funding for RSC assures that our taxpayer investment in our most important asset, our people, will be returned to our Ohio community, where it belongs. Without this minimum funding of $8.5 million -instead of the presently allocated $2 million - we will lose $32 million in federal funding that will go to other states instead. The subsequent penalties and reduction in services to our programs will destroy decades of progress. This all seems counter to Gov. Ted Strickland's efforts to create new jobs and "Turnaround Ohio."

Please urge your state senators and the governor to support the appropriate funding needed to continue the important programs for our deaf and hard of hearing in Ohio: $8.5 million allocated to the RSC; and return our line item allocation to Ohio's centers for the deaf from No. 415-608 to No. 415-605 to assure the centers will receive this critical funding.

Sandra Blakeman


Portsmouth Community Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

©2007 Chillicothe Gazette