Fry, who testified in Tallahassee this Monday at the first of a series of public forums hosted by the state’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS to discuss eligibility reductions, tells The Florida Independent that proposed changes to the drug assistance program eligibility have negative workforce implications. #
“If you cut the eligibility from [the current] 400 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, that takes out a large income range where people can work and advance in their careers, accept promotions and eventually leave the ADAP system,” Fry says. #
Fry says that with these eligibility cuts, if you work at the same place for three years and are offered a promotion that pays about $35,000 you would have to turn it down because you would have to leave the AIDS Drug Assistance Program and would not be able to afford HIV medications. He estimates that there are about 1,500 to 1,600 Florida Drug Assistance Program clients that would be in this situation if the eligibility reductions are approved. #
According to Fry, virtually everyone who spoke at the Monday forum — attended by Tom Liberti, chief of the Bureau of HIV/AIDS, and staff members Suzanne Stevens and Joe May — opposed these proposed changes based on humanitarian and fiscal reasons. #
These public forums — more will be held in Miami and Tampa in the coming week — are the first phase of the bureau’s administrative process to change eligibility rules. #
“I just advocate what is in the best interest of the state and the patient,” Fry says about the process. “I advocate what a horrible idea it would be to change the eligibility. I gave them every reason that I could. It doesn’t make any sense to reduce the capacity of the very two programs of among everything in Ryan White [program] that would allow people to grow in their jobs, advance in their careers and get out of the system.” #
Responding to news that state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has filed what one right-wing organization is dubbing an anti-Shariah law, Nezar Hamze, executive director of the South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, tells The Florida Independent that Hays' bill could impact believers in all faiths and that its filing shows Hays is disconnected from his constituents and Florida's real problems.
The initial proposal in the Florida House to drug-test recipients of cash assistance applied only to former drug offenders. Under changes approved today as the measure cleared a second committee, the tests would apply to everyone applying for benefits.