February 10, 2023
New Budget Advocacy Strategy and Toolkit
As you are well aware, Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget did not include our budget requests of an 8.5% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and $4000 Direct Support Wage Enhancement, which we have been championing since fall 2022. While we did receive a 2.5% COLA, it is not nearly enough to make up for over a decade of underinvestment investment, during which we received an overall COLA totaling only 6.6%, which pales in comparison to inflation of more than 27% over the same time period.

Our actions over the next few weeks and our interactions with legislators will be vital to our advocacy success. To support your meetings and messaging we have developed updated one-page handouts for legislators and additional talking points with our NYDA partners. We have also developed two template Op-eds for you to customize and submit to media outlets in your community. One is focused on the critical need for funding and our budget requests, and is suitable for submission by providers or family members. The other focuses on the disparity in Direct Support pay between state-operated and voluntary providers, and is more appropriate for providers.

One of the most important requests for these meetings is for legislators to send a letter to their leadership in their respected houses about our requests. When you meet or message your legislator, please provide them with this template. If they are amenable to sending the letter, follow up to receive the copy they have sent. Please do not simply have them forward the template as is, without their signature. We are tracking this and depending on you!

These materials can be found below, and in our Budget Advocacy Toolkit.

Budget Advocacy Toolkit Materials

We will kick off next week with a rally in the War Room of the Capitol on Monday, February 13 at 11:30 AM, followed by the Joint Legislative and Advocacy Forum. ICYMI, here is our initial statement on the FY24 budget and what’s coming up next week. You can also read the statement from the New York Disability Advocates on Governor Hochul 2024 Executive Budget here.
Letter to Governor on West Seneca DC Comments
On February 2, 2023, while touting mental health investments found in her Executive Budget, Governor Kathy Hochul made comments referencing the West Seneca Developmental Center, which was one of many centers closed over the past 40 years, ending the era of institutionalization. However, the governor did not recognize that the majority of residents were not people with mental health issues, but people with I/DD, the same people who have been forgotten in her own budget.

Mr. Geizer pointed out this oversight and invited the governor to speak with Judy O'Rourke, representative of the West Seneca Developmental Chapter and other families who had loved ones in the West Seneca DC. You can watch the comments here read the full letter here.
Senator Mannion Releases Op-ed Supporting Budget Initiatives
This week the Albany Times Union published an op-ed by Senator John Mannion, Chair of the Senate Disabilities Committee, citing the need for, “Permanent, long-term solutions…necessary to ensure a sustainable I/DD service sector in New York.” He went on to endorse our budget request for an 8.5% COLA and a Direct Support Wage Enhancement (DSWE).

We thank Senator Mannion for his continued advocacy and diligent support for people with I/DD and the people who support and serve them.

DDPC Holding Special Willowbrook Screening
The New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) is holding a special screening event featuring one of the most impactful and inspirational topics in the area of disability rights and services.

As you may know, 2022 marked the 50th anniversary of Geraldo Rivera’s New York exposé of Willowbrook State School, which at that time was the largest institution in the world for people with disabilities. This 1972 exposé, titled Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace, shocked the nation and forever changed the treatment of people with disabilities across the country. 

In recognition of this landmark moment, the DDPC has produced a half-hour documentary highlighting the importance of lessons learned, positive change that resulted, and the legacy of Willowbrook. The Path Forward: Remembering Willowbrook is a celebration of inclusion for people with disabilities in all aspects of community life.

The documentary includes insightful interviews from parents and siblings of former residents, along with former staff, who tell personal stories of what happened at Willowbrook and how it impacted their lives.

This screening will be held Thursday, March 23rd from 6-8 in the Swyer Theatre at the Egg. We urge you to experience this special event in person, before the documentary is broadcast on WMHT in October.

Want to do More?
Visit The Arc New York Advocacy Center for more ways to take action, including campaigns to support federal funding, employment opportunities, and our dedicated workforce. You can also find tools and resources to help you be a stronger advocate for New Yorkers with disabilities.

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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