Lawmakers Restore $90 Million

A strong push from the state legislative branch has led to the tentative restoration of $90 million that was slated to be cut from the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities.

Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-I Chautauqua County, applauded the announcement that a tentative agreement has been reached to restore funding for the OPWDD. Under the terms of the deal, cuts enacted in the state budget will be reversed, either through management efficiencies or an influx of cash.

“I want to thank Assemblyman Weisenberg and all my colleagues in the Assembly who have worked hard to restore this funding that was cut by the governor from the budget,” Goodell said. “We have a responsibility to speak up for those in our society who aren’t able to do so for themselves. These cuts would have meant parents being forced to quit their jobs to care for their children full time, and elderly parents would have had to bear a tremendous burden caring for grown children unable to support themselves. Thankfully, we will be able to restore these needed funds to those who so deserve them.”

When the cuts were originally proposed in March, the OPWDD was looking at a cut of $120 million, which according to Courtney Burke, OPWDD commissioner, would have come directly from volunteer service providers such as The Resource Center. In a press release from The Resource Center that was issued shortly after the cuts were announced, it called the state’s actions “a slap in the face and a rebuke of a long-standing arrangement whereby voluntary providers have effectively and efficiently supported people with severe disabilities within the community.”

The Resource Center began reaching out to families to make them aware of the proposed funding cut and the effect it would have, and urged families to contact lawmakers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the OPWDD to tell them how the funding cut would impact Chautauqua County residents with disabilities.

Immediately after the cuts were announced, state lawmakers like Goodell and state Sen. Cathy Young, R-C-I Olean, began working to restore the funds and stave off funding cuts to organizations like the resource center. Currently, Goodell is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan legislation put forward by Weisenberg that will officially restore funding to the OPWDD.

“Providing adequate funding for our most vulnerable citizens and their caregivers isn’t a partisan issue but an issue of humanity and protection,” said Goodell. “When the budget was passed, my Assembly Republican colleagues and I offered an amendment to restore this funding. While it took longer than it should have to get this money back, I’m glad an agreement was reached.”

Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-C-I Gowanda, call the funding restoration “a victory for all New Yorkers with developmental disabilities and their families,” saying that during and after the passage of this year’s state budget, he and his conference colleagues took a dedicated lead on trying to restore the $90 million that was cut from the OPWDD budget.

Following the push from the Assembly, the New York State Senate gave final passage to the legislation that will protect providers of services for people with disabilities from the state funding cuts. The legislation will appropriate up to $90 million to the OPWDD.

“This victory was hard fought, but well worth the battle,” said Young, R-C-I Olean. “We must stand up for the state’s most vulnerable citizens. The Senate was able to restore some of the cuts in the state budget, and remained persistent until these vital organizations could remain fully funded. Agencies will not be forced to cut or reduce programs that are crucial to people with disabilities.”

Under the legislation that was passed by both houses, should the savings fall short of the amount expected, the state will transfer sufficient funds to the OPWDD to make up for the shortfall. The OPWDD commissioner may also take into account greater efficiencies which will not diminish or impair services or the quality of care available to those with developmental disabilities.

“We’re certainly grateful and relieved that this agreement has been arranged, as well as the earlier efforts that took place,” said Steve Waterson, The Resource Center community relations director. “That cut would have caused about a $2.5 million deficit for this coming fiscal year. They initially pared that down, then put together a work group to find ways to arrive at a savings that would be result in the smallest impact on services possible.”

According to Waterson, The Resource Center was looking at the possibility of having to reduce and eliminate some services, which would have also included the elimination of some staff positions.

“We’re certainly grateful to Assemblyman Goodell and Sen. Young for all of their dedicated efforts,” said Waterson. “This really staved off what has been a pattern of cuts that the state has imposed over the last couple of years. To have additional funds cut this year would have been a really tough burden to have to bear.”