A bill that cleared the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Tuesday includes $21.1 million for Special Olympics thanks to an effort led by Florida’s U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto and Val Demings, Murphy’s office said Tuesday.
Her office said she and her fellow Central Florida representatives pressed the committee to increase support for the Special Olympics in the face of efforts by the administration of President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to eliminate all federal funding for the organization. The committee agreed to increase the appropriation from the current $17.5 million, in the committee’s Fiscal Year 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.
The next Special Olympics USA games, in 2022, are to be hosted by Orlando.
After DeVos’s late March announcement that the administration wanted federal money for Special Olympics to be eliminated, Murphy, Soto and Demings immediately sent a letter to DeVos pledging to “do everything in our power to prevent this cut from occurring.”
“Federal support for the Special Olympics and its athletes will empower more individuals with disabilities to reach their full potential. That’s why I stood up to Secretary DeVos and this Administration as they tried to defund these critical investments,” Murphy stated in a news release issued by her office. “The Orlando delegation came together on this issue, and Val, Darren, and I are proud that we are helping restore and increase funding for the Special Olympics.”
Special Olympics is the largest sports organization in the world for people with intellectual disabilities, boasting 5 million athletes in 172 countries.
“Supporting the Special Olympics means supporting a global movement of inclusivity, acceptance, and empowerment for people with intellectual disabilities,” Soto stated in the release. “After Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos cruelly defended cuts to the Special Olympics before Congress, Reps. Demings, Murphy and I stepped up and fought to include these funds in the federal budget. Our community is thrilled to be hosting the 2022 USA Games and to be a part of this life-changing experience for athletes.”
The Special Olympics USA Summer Games are held every four years, and the 2022 sporting event in Orlando is expected to have a $61 million impact on central Florida’s economy. The upcoming games are slated to become the largest humanitarian event in the history of Florida and will also mark the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics Florida.
“I’m relieved that our earlier advocacy forced the Trump Administration to suspend their cuts to the Special Olympics, which Orlando will be proudly hosting in 2022. The Special Olympics has been a life-changing opportunity for countless Americans and deserves our full support,”Demings stated. “That’s why I am proud join my colleagues Rep. Soto and Rep. Murphy to announce progress in our work to increase funding for this incredible humanitarian organization as we ready Orlando for the largest humanitarian event in Florida’s history.”