March 2003

Disability Issues

From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Kevin Cahill • Chair, Task Force on People with Disabilities
Thoughts on the governor’s cuts:

"(The governor’s) proposal to reduce state aid for pupil placements in private special education from the current 85% to 49% is particularly offensive given the special needs of these children. We have made a promise to help these children and their families and this proposal breaks that promise."

— Danny Donohue, President of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)

"The proposed budget will begin the dismantling of home care… In effect, the Governor’s proposals will reverse the state’s long-standing commitment to home and community-based care and threaten the health of the public."

— Home Care Association of New York State

"This [SSI] increase isn’t ‘extra money.’ It is badly needed to offset the rising price of all our daily necessities, from toothpaste to bus fare to heating oil. Taking it away is theft."

— Barbara Knowlen of Oriskany Falls, NY, a quadriplegic and a leader of the New York State Independent Living Council

Governor Pataki turns his back on individuals with disabilities
Proposal threatens nearly $1 billion in services and programs

We all know New York is facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis, but the governor’s proposal to cut and shift nearly $1 billion away from programs and services that assist people with disabilities is a wrong choice. It threatens the quality of life for individuals with disabilities by:

  • Cutting Special Education funding;
  • Slashing health care coverage;
  • Delaying the Medicaid Buy-In program;
  • Denying a cost-of-living adjustment for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients; and
  • Undermining the Olmstead Act.

The governor’s attempt to balance the budget on the backs of New York’s most vulnerable citizens is unacceptable and calls into question his dedication to protecting New York’s disability community.

Eliminating educational support for children in need

The governor’s budget slashes special education funding, which will pass additional costs on to school districts and possibly jeopardize their ability to meet the educational requirements of special needs children. Specifically, his budget cuts:

  • Require local school districts to pay $21 million in maintenance funding for Committee on Special Education placements;
  • Jeopardize schools’ ability to place children in appropriate classes by consolidating $73.7 million of Educationally Related Support Services Aid (ERSSA) — resulting in higher costs to schools; and
  • Reduce state support for an estimated 10,000 children with severe disabilities in private schools by $70.6 million — hurting services and possibly shifting the cost to 538 school districts.

The governor’s budget also targets infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities by imposing fees and provider requirements that could delay parents from enrolling their young children with disabilities in early intervention services and reduce access to providers.

Sacrificing quality, affordable health care

Under the governor’s budget, an estimated 234,000 low-income children will lose Medicaid coverage, shifting them to the Child Health Plus program, which lacks home care services for kids with severe disabilities.

He also cuts Medicaid Home Care by $71.8 million — devastating services which allow people with disabilities to stay in their own community at approximately one-third of the cost of nursing home care.

For individuals with severe disabilities who have no choice but to reside in nursing homes and rely upon staff to provide quality care on a daily basis, the governor’s $388.4 million cut in Medicaid Nursing Home reimbursement rates would leave many without the care they need.

Jeopardizing Medicaid coverage

The governor breaks his promise to help people with disabilities work by delaying the start of the Medicaid Buy-In program, which was championed by the State Assembly. The program, which was to go into effect April 1, 2003, extends Medicaid coverage to workers with disabilities — enabling them to obtain and retain employment while preserving coverage for such services as personal care and home health care.

Without the Buy-In program, an individual working full-time at minimum wage, or $10,920 annually, would exceed the Medicaid eligibility limit. Essentially, the governor’s budget revokes his promise to enable more New Yorkers with disabilities to work without the risk of losing existing Medicaid assistance.

Pickpocketing New York’s most vulnerable

The governor’s budget would take pennies from New York’s poorest residents with disabilities and seniors by denying them a federal cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in their Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The COLA provides only $14 per month for individuals and $21 per month for couples, but many people with disabilities depend on SSI to meet basic living expenses. The governor’s drastic cuts would make it nearly impossible for some of New York’s most vulnerable citizens to make ends meet.

Compromising quality of life

In 2002, the Assembly passed New York’s Olmstead Law to ensure people with disabilities enjoy the fullest possible independence, inclusion, and participation in society. The governor’s budget undermines the Olmstead Law by reducing the role of the “Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council,” which ensures that the state complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This will jeopardize the council’s ability to help individuals with disabilities integrate into the community.

The Assembly works to improve the lives of people with disabilities

The Assembly Majority has fought to ensure that people with disabilities remain an active part of communities by creating the coordinating council and the Medicaid Buy-In program. The Assembly has consistently worked to protect the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities and will continue the fight to ensure access to the services that help them remain involved, independent members of our communities.

New York State Assembly
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