Shutterstock, Sarah Flood-Baumann
A Texas House committee voted unanimously Tuesday to restore therapy funding for children with disabilities that was previously slashed by state officials. In December, the state health department cut $350 million worth of funds
from Early Childhood Intervention, a Medicaid program that provides free or low-cost treatment to some 60,000 Texas kids struggling with speech delays, down syndrome, autism and other developmental challenges.
Although the House bill does not fall under any of the 20 listed categories that Gov. Greg Abbott allowed to be addressed during the special session, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Sarah Davis, a Republican, said that she hopes the governor will consider the topic a priority to Texans.
"If the governor is going to bring us back here to talk about what bathrooms people can use or what we can do with our trees, then surely the disabled kids should take priority and hopefully we add this to the call," Davis told the Houston Chronicle.
The House Appropriations Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to refund $163 million — from both federal and state funds. The state's money would come from its rainy day fund, a sum of money that's reserved for a time of need. The money could help go toward ECI programs that help children with developmental delays learn to do tasks such as feeding themselves and communicating.
Since the original cuts in December, several organizations – like the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and Easter Seals East Texas – announced they would no longer be able to offer occupational and physical therapy to children because of inadequate funding, according to the Texas Tribune
. Bexar County's three EIC providers
said the cuts would force them to make significant cutbacks in their programming.
“Thousands of Texas kids are missing out on therapies that could help them communicate with their families, walk on their own, or be ready for school,” Texas Care for Children CEO Stephanie Rubin said
in a November statement.
House legislators are unsure whether or not they can count on the Texas Senate to back them up on the bill. During the regular session, a similar bill was introduced, but the Senate was unwilling to budge beyond refunding 25 percent of the slashed funding, while the House hoped for restoring half of the money. The bill now awaits a House floor vote.