Candidate forum focuses on policies to improve disability services

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A forum with local legislative candidates was held Tuesday night at the Arc of the Piedmont, focusing on how they would improve services for those with disabilities.

Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25th) is running for re-election in November against Elliott Harding, who is running as an independent.

The 25th District includes Albemarle, Augusta, and Rockingham counties.

There were seven candidates total at the forum running for seats in Virginia’s House and Senate.

Among all the candidates, it was clear one of the biggest issues those with disabilities face is lack of access to services. The developmental disability waiver waitlist is what is standing in the way for many people. Deeds said more funding would change that.

"About 13,000 people total are on the one, two, and three priority list for waivers,” said Deeds. “Priority one folks are the people who need services within the next year. We simply got to fund the services for these folks."

Deeds' opponent, Harding, said he has an idea of how the state can provide funding for those waivers.

"I do think that there are ways that Virginia can create new revenue sources and find ways so that we can directly appropriate that money into perpetuity,” said Harding, “so that the funds from particular revenue streams are directly appropriated for these types of waivers and for providing the care that everybody deserves."

Deeds said he believes funding for services can be found within tax credits.

"We're taking a significant amount of tax money that we're doling out in tax credits,” said Deeds. “We need to take a closer look at some of those tax credits. I think we can probably find the money we need to fund this and frankly finish Step Virginia, through tax dollars that are already being collected."

Step Virginia is an initiative that began in 2017 to improve community behavioral health services across the state.

Harding also said Virginia should not be losing revenue to corporate tax credits.

"I think we can do our best in the general assembly to make significant gains to make sure that folks get the waivers that they need,” said Harding, “and that Virginia quits giving handouts to corporate tax credits and things like that when in reality some of those funds could find their way to the people that need to be prioritized and those that are most at risk."

Election Day is now only three weeks away.

The Arc of the Piedmont, where the forum was held, provides services and advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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