Albany to Restore Funding for Developmentally Disabled

11:58 PM, Jun 13, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - There's a breakthrough for some of our most vulnerable - the developmentally disabled.

Earlier this year, $120 million of cuts were proposed at the state level for programs for some of our disabled.

But now, lawmakers are saying there will be no cuts at all. Protecting the funds is something Independent Democrat Mickey Kearns has been fighting for, in part, because his brother suffers from a developmental disability.

"The services are going to be there for the people who need it, the services are going to be there when I need it," said Todd Vaarwerk, who doesn't just care about state disability funding because it's part of his job at Western New York Independent Living in Buffalo, but because it's a personal issue to him that he's been following.

"I'm a Medicaid Service Coordination client, I have someone who helps me keep doctors appointments and keep the durable medical equipment running and keep my home health going," he said.

Services related to Medicaid were at risk if $90 million was cut from programs for the developmentally disabled. The proposed cuts would've hurt respite, children daycare, recreational and transportation programs.

Todd has had cerebal palsy his whole life.

So, when Albany lawmakers and Gov. Cuomo say they're restoring the money for people like him that's a lifesaver.

"That service is going to continue to be available residential opportunities are going to continue to be available, staff in those residences are going to continue to be available," he said.

During the budget process in March, Cuomo said millions needed to be cut from disability service providers. He said the federal government was changing the way it reimburses the state for people with developmental disabilities. Federal officials said the state spent too much on the most vulnerable.

The proposed cut started at $120 million, then it went down to $90 million. Now, lawmakers say there will be no cut at all.

"I think there's going to be a realignment of some dollars within the Department of Health budget, which is several billion dollars," said State Sen. George Maziarz, "I don't know if there's any cuts."

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi confirmed the agreement, saying the state will look to find savings within the state's $50 billion health-care program.

All of this puts Todd at ease.

"Any funding cut to disability services that's restored makes me sleep better, because we keenly feel the loss," he said.

According to the Governor this will help 130,000 people starting this month. Maziarz says that the Governor's office will work to restore the money and that nothing needs to be passed in the Legislature.

Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, a democrat of Nassau County, said he met with Cuomo on Wednesday to secure his commitment to restore the aid. "I said you can't take money from a agency such as this that has a such a responsibility - the most vulnerable people in our state," said Weisenberg, who has led a crusade to get the money back.

Lawmakers say this will all get done sometime next week.

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