February 16, 2024

A Powerhouse Week for Advocacy!

It was a busy week for The Arc New York Advocacy, with a huge rally, a two-day legislative and advocacy forum, legislative visits, and budget testimony. We raised our voices in force, and seized many opportunities to advocate and educate state leaders about our value and our needs.

Hundreds of advocates from around the state poured into the NYS capitol on Monday to rally for meaningful investment in services and staff, calling on state leaders to include a 3.2% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and Direct Support Wage Enhancement (DSWE) in the final budget.

Eleven elected representatives spoke to the crowd, as well as family members, self-advocates, and providers. Spectrum News captured the excitement and interviewed advocates who voiced the need for investment. You can watch the entire rally as it unfolded here and view photos on our Facebook page. Please like and share!

The rally kicked off our annual two-day Joint Legislative & Advocacy Forum, which provided advocates in-depth information on the Executive Budget proposal, upcoming legislation, advocacy strategies, and opportunities to engage leadership from OPWDD, the Senate and Assembly.

Throughout the week it became increasingly clear that state leaders are hearing our message, and raising their voices for New Yorkers with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and the staff who support them. Now we need to keep up the fight to make sure they stand strong and insist our requests are non-negotiable!

The Arc New York Delivers Testimony at Budget Hearing

On Tuesday, The Arc New York CEO Erik Geizer delivered oral testimony to the members of Senate and Assembly Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committees at the Mental Hygiene Budget Hearing.

Focusing on how DSP compensation has continued to lose ground year after year, he called on legislators to, “change the trajectory of how we value New Yorkers with I/DD and the DSPs who support them.”

Throughout the hearing, legislators asked thoughtful and pointed questions which aligned with our advocacy message and supported our requests. This was a powerful demonstration that our advocacy is reaching the ears of decision makers and they are using their platform to relay our message. 

You can watch The Arc New York oral testimony here and the panel questions that followed here, and read The Arc New York written testimony here. The entire hearing and all submitted written testimonies are available on the NYS Senate website.

Legislative Support for the 3.2% COLA and DSWE

As we noted last week, Senator Mannion and Assemblymember Seawright reintroduced the bi-partisan, Direct Support Wage Enhancement (S4127-A/A5268-A) as a stand-alone bill. This is an important step as we advocate for the DSWE to be included in the Senate and Assembly’s one-house budget bills. Senator Bill Weber, ranking Minority Member of the Senate Standing Committee on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and a co-sponsor of the DSWE legislation, submitted an op-ed to Mid-Hudson News expressing the need for people disabilities and the people who support them to be a priority in the FY25 Budget. You can read the The Arc New York's memo in support of the bill here.

In addition, the Chairs of the Senate and Assembly Disabilities Committees submitted letters to their respective leaders this week, asking them to include the COLA and DSWE in their one-house budget bills. The letters were signed by members of the Democratic conference from both houses who have signaled their support and intention to make the COLA and DSWE a priority moving forward. We encourage advocates to review both the Senate letter and the Assembly letter for their Democratic legislator’s name and reach out to thank them or ask why they didn’t sign on to the letter. Making sure that the signatories continue to raise their voices behind closed doors will remain critical over the next several weeks.

Please continue to call and write your legislators to keep the pressure on. All letters will also be sent to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate President Pro Tempore and Majority Leader Andrew Steward-Cousins. If you joined in our one-click campaign previously, you can raise your voice again!

New Congressional Maps Presented by IRC

The New York Independent Redistricting Commission voted 9-1 Thursday on submitting new congressional maps to the state Legislature that would make substantial changes to some upstate House district boundaries, while leaving most of the current lines in other parts of the state largely in place.

The newly drawn maps are now in the hands of the legislature for review and ultimately, for approval. The timeline is particularly tight, given that the collection of petition signatures to appear on the primary ballot is scheduled to commence on February 27, and the legislature is not scheduled to reconvene until February 26. This will most assuredly affect the current political calendar. Read more from New York State of Politics here.

New FY25 Document Drops: 30-Day Amendments and Comptroller Report

Governor Kathy Hochul released her 30-day amendments yesterday. The amendments are typically opportunities to correct technical errors in the Executive Budget ahead of the One-House Budget Bills. Rarely do they include vast substantive changes. We will continue to review the amendments for any areas of concern. Accompanying the amendments, is the amended financial plan document, which accounts for any of the changes.

NYS Comptroller Thomas Dinapoli also released his report on the FY25 Executive Budget yesterday. As an elected state-wide office representative, his perspective on revenues, receipts, and the health of state finances are taken into consideration during the construction of the budget. You can read his executive summary and follow the links for additional information.

This and all advocacy updates are archived on The Arc New York website for future reference. Please contact us if you have questions regarding any of this information.
Contact: Philip Aydinian, Director of Governmental Affairs 
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