Wayne Post
  • 'Huge hit' for disabled in New York's budget

  • The state budget passed last week means deep cuts to programs and services for people with disabilities in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region.

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  • The state budget passed last week means deep cuts to programs and services for people with disabilities in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region.
    The $90 million in cuts statewide target the voluntary, not-for-profit agencies under the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. These agencies include Happiness House, which serves 1,200 people and their families in Ontario, Seneca, Yates and Wayne counties; Ontario ARC, which serves 1,000 people and their families in Ontario County; and CP Rochester, which helps people in nine counties, many of whom are in Monroe.
    Gov. Andrew Cuomo initially proposed $120 million in cuts to the agencies, which is meant to pay back the federal government for overpayments the feds discovered were made over the past couple decades involving clients with developmental disabilities.
    Cuomo said he wants the cut to come from administrative costs, not direct care.
    “We are giving millions of dollars of tax credits to Beverly Hills and Hollywood entertainers versus taking care of our most needy,” said Assembly Republican Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua. “This is just one example where budgets that are negotiated behind closed doors don’t necessarily bring the best outcomes for the people that we’re supposed to serve.”
    Kolb was referring to the $420 million tax credit to subsidize movie and TV productions and $54 million that will be spent to help renovate the stadium used by the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
    While the final budget cut is less severe than Cuomo initially proposed, the affected agencies say they were already operating at bare bones.
    Dave Carro, marketing and communications manager with CP Rochester, called the cut “devastating.”
    CP Rochester, a $17 million company, will lose $259,000 for the rest of this year and see a loss of $518,000 per year going forward, said Carro: “It is a huge hit.”
    At Ontario ARC, the cut means operating with $920,000 less in 2013, said Ann Scheetz, Ontario ARC’s executive director. While the goal is to avoid eliminating programs and personnel that directly affect those the agency helps, Scheetz said such a cut means analyzing every aspect of the organization.
    A collaborative campaign of staff and community members with the various affected organizations went to Albany to press legislators to avoid the cut. “They came back feeling their voices were heard,” said Scheetz.
    But in the end, the amount restored was not enough to make a significant difference.
    “Still, there is an awful lot we will have to absorb,” Scheetz said.
    Terrie Meyn, associate executive director at Happiness House, said the budget cut affects just one of many programs Happiness House offers, or about 15 percent of the organization’s programs and services. Even so, the cut is disappointing, she said, and it means Happiness House will have to reassess the way it provides that program.
    Page 2 of 2 - On Saturday, the annual Canandaigua Polar Plunge at Onanda Park on Canandaigua Lake will raise money for Happiness House, along with the nonprofit Special Olympics New York. Participants, many clad in fun costumes, plunge into the icy waters of Canandaigua Lake while spectators watch and join in a celebration afterward at the park.
    Meyn said the community continues to provide support through donations and fundraisers, which are especially significant in light of reduced state funding. People are generous, she said. Last year, the plunge raised about $5,000 for Happiness House and this year’s event is shaping up to be even more successful, she noted.

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