With residents and agencies concerned about the possible $120 million in New York State budget cut impacting programs serving people with developmental disabilities, Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Westchester) launched an online petition Monday. The petition seeks reinstatement of the proposed six percent reduction in state aid to the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). The proposed state-funding cut would actually be more severe because federal matching funds of $120 million would also be lost.
“The cuts would be devastating to agencies like Jawonio, ARC of Rockland,” said Carlucci spokesman Jason Elan, noting that 70 percent of the funding goes toward staff salaries and benefits.
On Monday, the State Senate and Assembly both adopted budget resolutions that restored the $120 million dollars to OPWDD. Legislative leaders and the governor’s budget office are now in budget negotiations and discussing their individual budget proposals. They have a limited timeframe to resolve their differences since the target date for a balanced, on time budget is Thursday, March 21.
"With budget negotiations now into the next phase, we don't have much time to convince the Governor and our legislative leaders that restoring these cuts is vital to the well-being of our most vulnerable," said Senator Carlucci. "We need action, and we need it now. My hope is that by creating this grassroots effort to restore these cuts, we will ultimately prevail by putting the pressure on Albany until this milestone is reached."
The petition was created to give New Yorkers the opportunity to voice their objections to the cut and the affect it will have on the not-for-profit providers who provide services to the developmentally disabled. Agencies fear loss of the funds will lead to significant decreases in staffing.
The initial goal for petition signatures was 1,000, which had been exceeded by midday Tuesday. Residents from throughout New York signed the petition and added comments expressing their thoughts on the funding. The petition will be hand delivered to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office next week along with the letters of support.
Lower Hudson Valley agencies that work with developmentally disabled individuals had planned a rally against the cuts last Friday but it was postponed because of the snowstorm. They now expect to gather on Friday at 11 a.m. at Kirkbride Hall on Willow Grove Road in Stony Point. Diana Hess of Jawonio, who is helping to organize the rally, expects consumers, families and staff from Jawonio, Venture, YAI/RCALD, Rockland Independent Living Center, Westchester Cerebral Palsy Association and Crystal Run Village in Orange County to attend the event in the former Letchworth Village. Last week Assembly and State Senate leaders each received 500 letters asking them to restore the $120 million to OPWDD.