House returns Arc Gateway funding to budget

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 @ 6:06PM

State funding for a partnership between Pensacola Stage College and the non-profit Arc Gateway will be returned to the budget, allowing the project to continue for another year.

In 2014, former State Senate President Don Gaetz secured $2 million in recurring funds for Arc Gateway, an organization that assists people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The funds were earmarked for Arc Gateway’s Adult Learning and Support program at PSC. The program allows Arc Gateway clients to receive job training at PSC.

Earlier this year, the Florida House of Representatives dropped the funding from its 2015-2016 budget. But a House sub-committee last week approved returning the funding, after local lobbying. Full House approval is expected soon.

Belle Bear, an Arc Gateway Foundation board member, was one of the local Arc supporters who pushed for the funding return.

“This is helping people in our community gain life skills and helping them get into the workforce,” Bear said. “This program can change lives.”

The program is a two-year, post-secondary course for people with disabilities. Classes include career exploration, vocational training, independent living skills as well as traditional college courses. Currently, 31 people are in the program. Next year, those 31 will start their second year in the program, while 30 or 40 new clients will begin the study program.

Florida Rep. Clay Ingram worked with Bear to help restore the funding, lobbying other representatives to support the program.

“It’s important for people to have some independence in their lives and learn to contribute and do something for themselves,” Ingram said. “It helps them and it helps our community and our state.”

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