Missouri Aid to the Blind Could Face Budget Cuts

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The unemployment rate for the blind is nearly 70 percent, and organizations that serve blind people say that number could go even higher if Missouri lawmakers approve cuts to the state's $30 million assistance program.

The Missouri Supplemental Aid for the Blind program helps over 2,800 legally-blind people cover medical costs. But the program is in danger of being cut to help balance the state's budget.

For legally-blind unemployed Missourians like Tameka Morgan, who relies on the program to help cover a computer training class at Alphapointe for the Blind, cuts to the program could be devastating.

"If it goes through, then if I were to get the job that I want, any employment, half of my take home would go to my doctor visits," said Morgan, who is in the early stages of macular degeneration, and who also has type-2 diabetes. In addition, people like Morgan who want a job, or who already have a job, could end up earning too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

Alphapointe director of Rehabilitation Clay Berry says that he spoke to lawmakers in Jefferson City this week to try and get them to change their minds about the proposed cuts.

"At minimum wage, let's say half of your income is going to need to go toward healthcare before any insurance kicks in," said Berry. "Many people that we work with and who are blind are going to say, 'Well, what's the point?'."

Morgan says that she hopes lawmakers take everything into consideration before deciding to make cuts to the program.

"It would deter people like myself from wanting to work, because it would be a negative in our situations," said Morgan.

The Missouri Legislature is on spring break this week, but is expected to pick up the budget issue again next week. Governor Jay Nixon spoke out against the proposed cuts this week, but Missouri House Republican Ryan Silvey tells FOX 4 he is waiting to hear a solution from the governor.

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