CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Jim Justice said he stands with the families of disabled youth and senior citizens who benefit from a Medicaid waiver program that helps them pay for in-home care.

Governor Jim Justice says budget cuts shouldn’t hurt those who need the most help.

Justice spoke at a rally this afternoon in the lower Rotunda at the state Capitol. He appeared alongside children named Gracie and Anna, beneficiaries of state-funded programs.

“You’ve got a lot of people upstairs who are really not bad people. They’re not. And they’re struggling with what to do,” Justice said of legislators who have been working to figure out how to cope with the estimated half-billion dollar budget gap for the coming fiscal year.”

The families who gathered are concerned about cuts to Medicaid in the budgets that have passed in both houses of the state Legislature.

The state Senate’s proposal includes $47.7 million in cuts to the Department of Health and Human Resources.

The House bill cuts $10 million to Medicaid funds handled by DHHR. The House bill funded the waiver programs for the disabled and senior citizens at their recommended level of $88 million for the waiver program for the intellectually disabled and almost $14 million for seniors.

“It’s gonna hurt Anna, and it’s gonna hurt Gracie, and it’s gonna hurt lots of y’all,” Justice said. “Because that multiplies into federal matching monies, and now it becomes terribly painful.”

Justice has said he will veto the budgets as they currently appear because of cuts like these. A couple of weeks ago, the administration had a state-of-emergency lantern lit atop the Capitol to indicate an impending public health emergency.

Those who gathered at the Capitol on Thursday afternoon were worried that the reduced funding could lengthen waiting lists for services or force some who are current recipients back onto waiting lists. There are about 1,276 people on a wait list already in West Virginia.

Justice told those gathered that his own nephew is autistic.

“He’s just as beautiful as beautiful can be,” the governor said. “He’s a wonderful young man. So I hear you. And I know. And all I want is goodness for all of us.”

Families in the Rotunda held signs that said, “Don’t cut our lifeline.”

The first to speak was Tracy White, a parent advocate.

“I know we are in a state of hardship, but I don’t see line item budget numbers,” White said. “I see names. I see Bailey. I see Gracie. I see Anna. I see faces in every dollar amount that’s on this budget line. We can’t just turn our backs on them and pretend they are not here.”

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