WEINBERG, JOHNSON PROPOSE FUNDING SOLUTION TO AID CHILDREN WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS

Redirects Research Funds to Help Offset Christie Cuts to Early Intervention Program

Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson introduced legislation on Monday to help offset the increased costs being proposed under Governor Christie’s new budget for families of children with developmental delays.

“One of our greatest governmental responsibilities is to help those in ‘the dawn of life’ succeed,” said Weinberg (D-Bergen). “New Jersey’s early intervention program has been widely successful because it connects children to the reDests they need to overcome their disadvantages while sparing parents the financial burden.”

“Sadly, in this economy, when push comes to shove, many families would have to choose putting food on the table over paying for intervention services for their child,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “But the medical and educational attention provided through the early intervention program can mean the difference between a child forever falling behind the curve or moving to the head of the class.”

The state’s Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECIP) provides quality services and support to help families meet the developmental and health-related needs of children from birth to age three who have delays or disabilities. The program promotes collaborative partnerships among families, the community, service and health care providers, schools and child care programs to strengthen and enhance family and child competence.

However, Governor Christie’s FY 2011 budget reduced the state’s appropriation for the EICP, resulting in a proposed increase in the amount families will have to pay for services, including a possible co-payment for families with incomes at or above 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

The Weinberg-Johnson bill being introduced would redirect $4 million to be generated in FY 2011 and currently designated for the state’s Autism Medical Research and Treatment Fund (AMRTF) to offset the increased costs that the Christie administration has proposed for families in the EICP program.

Presently, there is a $1 motor vehicle surcharge on fines and penalties that generates revenue to support the AMRTF. Based on available revenue information, this fund has sufficient unexpended balances to continue its activities without the $4 million that would be raised from this $1 motor vehicle surcharge in FY 2011.

“Without this funding, a family of four making only $66,000 will have to shoulder increased costs to make sure their child isn’t left behind,” added Johnson. “With costs for just about everything increasing these days, this may be the fee that breaks the family’s wallet.”

“This funding could mean the difference between a child remaining in the Early Intervention Program or losing this critical support network,” added Weinberg. “For a child with developmental delays, the help they get in the first few years of their life can make all the difference.”