Politics & Government

SRS asked to explain changes

TOPEKA — Members of a Kansas legislative oversight committee have asked Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services officials to explain changes in how SRS administers programs to residents who have low incomes and/or disabilities.

The House-Senate Committee on Home and Community Based Services quizzed SRS staff Tuesday about how the agency was handling $6.6 million in new state revenue to help Kansans with disabilities.

Legislators and advocates for the disabled were concerned about how SRS was setting priorities for distributing the funds.

SRS Deputy Secretary Pedro Moreno said the new funds would target residents who receive no state services before those who already get some assistance.

The new funding was aimed at the state's waiting list for services. The money was earmarked for providing services such as bathing, dressing and mobility, aimed to help developmentally disabled people remain in their homes and communities instead of moving to a nursing home.

SRS said nearly 2,500 people were on one SRS waiting list for those services.

Some committee members and advocates said the money also was to go to those receiving some state services, but not enough. An estimated 1,100 people are considered underserved by the agency.

Moreno and legislators disagreed over the intent of the new funding.

"SRS, they have now eliminated 1,100 people from the waiting list," said Rep. Jerry Henry, a Cummings Democrat, who also is a member of the House budget committee.

Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, a member of the Senate budget committee, said she wanted SRS to be open with legislators next session about funding requirements.

Kelly said the agency had been hit hard by budget cuts during the past several years as state revenue tanked, but that during the 2011 session SRS "enthusiastically" embraced more reductions.

Moreno said all leaders within SRS can request necessary funding, but, he added, "We understand the state is in a difficult situation."