During the legislative session, a total of $2.8 million from the General Fund was allocated for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, but the difference means that the state could lose as much as $10 million in federal funding. According to Karen Musgrove, executive director of Birmingham AIDS Outreach, the loss would make Alabama one of only two states that have failed to make the match in the 19-year history of the Ryan White funding.
Also missing from the Alabama general fund budget passed by the Senate on Tuesday was a $700,000 allocation for AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) throughout the state. That funding has been in place for the last three years, with each agency receiving around $62,000 to use in helping clients with things not covered by federal funding, like funeral services and emergency hotel costs.
“The agencies could spend the money how they needed to use it,” Musgrove says. “It is a rare opportunity to have funds that we are able to use at our own choosing. BAO spent the money in client transportation, one full-time employee to work the front desk and schedule client appointments and two part-time employees for client administrative assistance. If we lose this money, it is going to have an enormous impact on BAO.”
As one of only 10 AIDS organizations in the state, BAO covers all of the Birmingham, Jefferson County and Shelby County area, and the organization averages 13 new clients every month. That’s actually one of the drawbacks to the once-a-year “flat funding” that comes from the state and federal government — neither the state nor the federal government provides additional funding as the client list grows. Since BAO has a policy of never turning away a client, agency administrators must figure out how to raise additional funds in order to meet the increased demand for services that each new client represents.
Only one opportunity remains to shore up state-level funding: A committee of members from the House (Representatives John Knight, Jack Page and Victor Gaston) must vote to reconcile the Senate’s version of the budget. Anyone interested in preventing Alabama from moving backwards in the fight to prevent HIV and to care for those living with HIV/AIDS should contact the committee members ASAP at the numbers or e-mail addresses provided below. The legislative session is scheduled to end May 15.
Representative John Knight
Representative Victor Gaston
Representative Jack Page