Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan on the Non-Elderly Persons With Disabilities Grant Announcement Via Conference Call

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thank you all for joining us.  Today, I'm proud to join Secretary Sebelius as we jointly announce funding that will help nearly a thousand non-elderly Americans with disabilities live independently and with the dignity they deserve.  And I want to thank Secretary Sebelius as well as Kelly Buckland with the National Council on Independent Living for their leadership on this issue.

This is an important moment.  Eighteen months ago, President Obama celebrated the 10th anniversary of the landmark Olmstead Decision, in which the Supreme Court held that institutionalizing people with disabilities without cause is a form of discrimination prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It was on that historic day that the President launched his Year of Community Living initiative -- challenging HUD and the Department of Health and Human Services to find ways to use housing as a platform for improving the quality of life for those with disabilities.

In response, Secretary Sebelius and I formed a partnership that has brought a new sense of focus to our agencies' efforts to connect housing and services for those wanting to transition from institutional settings to a community.

As a result of this partnership, last April HUD made $40 million available through our Rental Assistance for Non-Elderly Persons with Disabilities Program to public housing authorities across the country -- with the goal of funding some 5,300 rental assistance vouchers to promote independent living for the disabled community.

As part of this effort, last October, HUD awarded $33 million to help 4,300 individuals with disabilities and their families access affordable housing that meets their needs.

Today, I'm proud to announce that HUD is awarding the final $7.5 million to fund approximately 1,000 rental assistance vouchers.  These vouchers will help public housing authorities work with Medicaid or other state health and human service agencies in 15 states to target men and women with disabilities who currently live in institutional settings but could live independently with assistance.

Today's announcement is the latest effort on the part of the Obama Administration to encourage and support stronger relationships not only at the federal level, but more importantly at the local level -- between the housing and health and human service providers serving those with disabilities on the front lines in our communities.

We know these sorts of partnerships work.  Just ask Kay from Cleveland, who, because of her psychiatric disability, had gone between shelters and nursing homes for the majority of her life.

Kay was discharged from a nursing facility to a temporary shelter, but could not afford a permanent home and was at risk of being re-institutionalized.

With a Housing Choice Voucher provided through HUD and the help of Ohio's Home Choice Program, funded by HHS, Kay has a place to call home and the support she needed to transition into her community.

In a few moments, Secretary Sebelius will explain how these vouchers will help so many more like Kay make the same transition -- how they augment work already being done through the Medicaid Money Follows the Person program and the critical role housing plays in our nation's long term care system.

But people like Kay remind us that with these efforts, we're not just funding programs.

We're changing lives -- and lifting up the extraordinary work men and women do in our communities every day to make real the promise of America.

And as President Obama said, we're articulating one of the most fundamental rights Americans have: the choice to live independently, with grace and with dignity.

That's what this effort is about -- and it's why I'm proud to be a part of it.

 And with that, let me pass this off to Secretary Sebelius.  Thank you.


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