As all New York state departments were mandated to cut their budgets by at least 2 percent because of the revenue loss endured during the coronavirus pandemic, the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities is slicing $178 million from the rates that group homes charge for resident occupancy.
Billed originally as a $238 million reduction that could endanger the services provided the 140,000 New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the cut that goes into effect July 1 is not expected to reduce services. The rate-setting provisions take effect on Oct. 1.
Parents of children living in groups were in panic such as Cedarhurst resident Mindy Rosengarten, who said in an email the initial cut would “result in a loss of residential beds, longer wait lists, and fewer options for those living at home with their families.” The thinking is that some providers could go out of business, many would have to reduce staff and downgrade service quality.
“These cuts are particularly cruel in the wake of Covid-19, when providers have spent enormous sums of money to protect our individuals, with zero reimbursement from OPWDD,” she wrote in an email. “As a parent of a young man with autism living in a NYS group home, I implore you to shed light onto this impending vote.”
Jennifer O’Sullivan, an Office of People With Developmental Disabilities spokeswoman, stated in an email that the cut is $60 million less than first thought. The cut targets the amount of money groups homes can receive for reimbursements during the year.
“Providing support to New York’s most vulnerable residents is critical to ensuring all New Yorkers have the opportunity to live a full life,” O’Sullivan stated. “OPWDD does not anticipate changes to the services provided as a result of this targeted approach which implements savings goals included in the enacted budget. By targeting the ‘non-delivery of services’ rather than implementing an across the board reduction, OPWDD is able to preserve essential community-based services while also continuing to provide needed residential supports.”
State Assemblywoman Melissa Miller, an Atlantic Beach Republican who represents the Five Towns and surrounding communities in the 20th A.D., is very familiar with OPWDD services as her son, Olivier, is developmentally and physically disabled.
Noting that budget decision do not often make sense, Miller said that this budget cut has the least impact on the consumers. “Each home vacancy rates differs up to 5 percent of their budget,” she said. “Each home has its own budget. It’s complicated. There are many different homes and different needs.”
Saying that fixing the financial difficulties of the state by burdening people with disabilities is unfair, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat who represents the Five Towns, wants the fiscal support of the federal government and says state needs to think out of the box for ways to generate more revenue.
“Washington has not done enough and there have big time cuts made in many areas of the state at every level,” Kaminsky said. “I’m certainly against raising taxes. We have lots of options to raise revenue, including sports gambling. We have to be creative to get back as the coronavirus pandemic left us with a $13 billion deficit.”