Disabled persons to hold cash-cuts march

Umbrella committee for 7,000 associations says government owes 300 million euros in subsidies

Swimmer Teresa Perales, who will join the protest on Sunday, with her Paralympic Games medal haul.
Swimmer Teresa Perales, who will join the protest on Sunday, with her Paralympic Games medal haul. Sergio Pérez (REUTERS)

Some 15,000 disabled people from across Spain will hold a march in Madrid on Sunday to protest funding cuts by the regional and municipal governments to organizations that help provide services to those with limited mobility.

The demonstration is being sponsored by the Spanish Committee of Representatives of Persons with Disabilities (CERMI), which claims that the funding cuts for NGOs across the country have become "unbearable." Around 300 buses will bring the demonstrators to Madrid at the weekend so they can take part in the march under the slogan "SOS Disabilities."

They will be joined by members of the Spanish Paralympic team, including swimmer Teresa Perales, the Paralympian with the most medals in the event's history.

Luis Cayo Pérez Bueno, the president of CERMI, said that regional and municipal governments owe member organizations some 300 million euros in funding from the past two years.

“If during the boom years we were badly off, we are worse off in this crisis,” Pérez Bueno said.

CERMI is an umbrella group for more than 7,000 smaller organizations, which represent more than 3.8 million people with disabilities in Spain.

On Wednesday, CERMI officials met with the finance and health ministers, Cristóbal Montoro and Ana Mato, to discuss the situation. Pérez Bueno said that the two officials pledged to release 18 million euros this year and another 23 million in 2013 from the central government’s Regional Financial Liquidity fund (FLA), funding meant to cover the money owed over the past two years.

Even though the government has stated that it has already released 339 million euros for social services through the FLA fund, the CERMI president said that none of that cash has been allotted to pay off some of the 300-million-euro shortfall of the regions and municipalities.

A breakdown of that bill shows that the regions owe 250 million while the municipalities have fallen back in paying out some 50 million euros.

“The 300 million that is owed to our sector goes to providing services, subsidies, and salaries for those who work in specialized centers,” Pérez Bueno said, adding that the government’s allocations go to pay half the minimum wages of disabled persons who are in special work programs.

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