Note: This event took place before the Senate and Assembly put forth a proposal to restore $120 million in funding to the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities.
On Friday morning, New York State Sen. George Maziarz, New York State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, New York State Assemblyman John Ceretto and New York State Assemblyman Ray Walter addressed Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed 2013-14 budget. Specifically, the delegation took exception to the proposed 6 percent cut to the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities for community-based non-profit organizations, which would impact 120,000 people.
Even though $120 million is designated in the state budget, it is matched by the federal government, so the impact is a total cut of $240 million.
Elected representatives representing most of Niagara County were joined by Connie Brown, executive director at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara; John Reardon, Executive Director and CEO of Niagara Cerebral Palsy; and Jeff Sanderson, executive director at Rivershore Inc. Additionally, more than 100 people with developmental disabilities, their family members, caregivers and employees from Niagara County's human services agencies were present to protest Cuomo's budget proposal.
"As elected officials, we are gravely concerned by Gov. Cuomo's budget proposal to cut OPWDD supports and services by 6 percent to the community-based not-for-profit organizations. We must ensure the health, safety and quality of life for all of the 120,000 people - from newborn to senior citizen - with intellectual and other developmental disabilities served by these agencies," Maziarz said. "While we support the on-time passage of the budget and agree in principle with the governor's reform agenda, you cannot balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. The OPWDD system is in crisis, and this will not address the challenges faced in delivering programs and services in our region. This draconian decrease will threaten real services that now cover many individuals 24 hours each day, seven days a week."
"The governor's proposed cuts to OPWDD will absolutely hurt New York state's most vulnerable citizens," Corwin said. "At a time when special needs services are providing assistance to more individuals than ever, it seems to me that Gov. Cuomo 'brushing off' concerns of funding cuts, and therefore service and access, is very inappropriate. Private and non-profits have demonstrated cost-effective measures of quality care, but will have immense difficulty providing for the needs of these vulnerable individuals with fewer staff and decreased programming options. We are here today because many of these individuals are unable to advocate for themselves due to the nature of their disabilities, and challenges they face every day."
"The non-profits provide quality services cost-effectively," Walter said. "Revenue must be found to replace these cuts. Our colleagues in both houses and Gov. Cuomo must realize the benefit community-based providers bring to their clients and to the state. Any major loss in funding to these organizations may mean that parents may have to quit jobs to stay at home to care for their family member - increasing the need for government assistance and/or that emergency medical care providers will find an increase in a group of people turning to them for needs that were successfully monitored by the providers, now increasing costs to taxpayers and needlessly filling area emergency rooms."
"The non-profit agencies continue to battle against rising insurance premiums, fuel and transportation costs, and rising costs due to increasing regulatory actions," Ceretto said. "They simply cannot take a reduction of this magnitude without seeing services and supports cut for people with developmental disabilities, along with layoffs for staff. Together, the non-profits constitute among the top employers of our county. While we do not advocate employment for the sake of employment, these individuals also are the backbone of our communities."