LITTLE ROCK – Money channeled from the state’s Tobacco Settlement Fund to pay for services for developmentally disabled Arkansans is a promise kept that is dramatically improving lives, Governor Asa Hutchinson told members of the state’s Tobacco Settlement Commission at their quarterly meeting on Tuesday.

In September 2016, the governor asked the commissioners to support his efforts to redirect some of the unused tobacco settlement money to help reduce the number of people on the waiting list for the state’s Community and Employment Supports waiver for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Act 50, which the governor supported and the legislature passed this year, diverted $8.5 million from the settlement fund, which triggered the release of $20 million from the federal government to supplement the initiative.

The governor thanked the commissioners for their support. “You embraced the idea. That allowed us to receive $20 million in federal funds. That has allowed us to reduce the wait list by this initial 500 people. This is a great success story.

“Of course, we can’t stop with the 500 families. My goal today is to eliminate that waiting list, and you all started that process.”

Regan Reaves, a 19-year-old who began receiving assistance at home in October because of the program, joined the governor at the commission meeting. Wendie Reaves, Regan's mother, told commissioners that the aid has changed their lives. They were on the list for eight years.

Rep. Andy Mayberry, who sponsored the original legislation in the House of Representatives, expressed gratitude that families are seeing the benefits of Act 50.

“This is a great first step toward eliminating the waiting list,” Representative Mayberry said. “I’m pleased that many families with special challenges in their lives are now able to receive specialized assistance. This is about independence, opportunities and relief for those individuals. Some of these families have been on the waiting list 10 years. I’m thankful Governor Hutchinson has made this a priority in his administration.

“These families work hard at their jobs and are trying to raise their special-needs child all at the same time. I hope the waiver will allow these parents to provide as many opportunities as possible for their children, so the whole family can experience more independent and balanced lives.”

Senator Jason Rapert, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, added his thanks. "This morning’s announcement is a reflection of the significant progress our state is making in reducing the number of developmentally disabled Arkansans waiting for in-home care to help them gain independence," Senator Rapert said. "This has been a focus that both the governor and I have had for the past several months. I am grateful to Governor Hutchinson for making it a priority to provide care for the most vulnerable in our state, and I am proud to have carried legislation to help make this happen. This is an important step in providing relief fo"r these families who have been waiting for far too long.