TU: Disability service providers warn of cuts without restored state funding

Amanda Fries

ALBANY — A report released Thursday found that 80 percent of healthcare providers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities fear future state budget cuts will force them to eliminate services.

The New York Disability Advocates surveyed providers from across the state — collectively representing over 38 percent of the residential support system in New York — who fear additional reductions in state funding will “result in the closure or reduction of existing services and support.”

The Empire State is facing a nearly $15 billion budget shortfall this year, and, in order to rein in spending, budget officials have frozen new hires and raises for some state employees as well as withheld a 20 percent portion of payments on contracts.

The “impoundment” of a portion of those payments threatens current services provided to roughly 55,000 people across New York, the survey shows, and impacts nine out of every 10 agencies. As a result, providers estimate that nearly 8,000 people will be left without services if funds are not restored by the end of the year.

The withholds have hit school districts, local governments as well as social and community support services. State officials have said the remaining funds would be restored if New York receives adequate fiscal relief from the federal government, a quest that has stalled for months as federal lawmakers bicker over whether state and local governments warrant financial relief.

Agencies that responded to the survey also estimated that the funds held back in October forced providers to cut 1,200 beds, which is on top of the 611 beds lost because of the coronavirus pandemic and previous bed closures. The roughly 1,800 beds lost comprised 6 percent of total beds available within the system.

“Our system that was built to serve and care for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities is on the verge of crumbling,” New York Disability Advocates President Tom McAlvanah said in a news release. “While we understand COVID-19 has put the state under financial stress, these budget cuts will destroy programs and services for well over 10,000 people with disabilities in New York State. The state must fulfil their obligation to these individuals and the workers that care for them and revoke these crippling budget cuts.”

The advocacy group said proposed cuts amount to nearly $500 million, and include reductions in payment rates for services as well as the 20 percent withhold of funds for various programs.

The report also found that 39 percent of providers would close beds; 35 percent of providers would close homes; and 56 percent of providers would combine or consolidate residences if funding is not restored.