The New York state budget has forced 50 cuts to jobs for those with disabilities at the Albany County mail sorting facility.
Within the building on New Karner Road, hundreds of thousands of envelopes are sorted through the Mail Fulfillment center every day. Those making sure it gets where it needs to go are employees through the Center for Disability Services.
Mike Lizzi has been working for the center for 26 years.
“Sometimes they run it about 12 to 10,000 an hour," said Lizzi.
Lizzi was helped by the center, in need of its service, after he was injured in a car crash as a toddler. He now works for the center that he says has given him so much, saying it helps support his family, including two daughters. It also gives him a sense of fulfillment.
“It gives us a sense of being who we can be. We can be a person, we can be an individual, we can be a part of society, we can support our families,” said Lizzi.
He’s become so good at his job, he helps others learn the ropes. It’s his is favorite part.
“Helping other people, like me, be better at what they can do and raising them up to meet their goals,” Lizzi added.
But, the tables where most of his fellow employees would work are empty. Thirty new positions for those with extra needs have been canceled.
Twenty employees with disabilities have been laid off, including Chief Program Officer Donna Lamkin Faddegon’s daughter, Lauren Williams.
The cuts stem from a printing contract canceled in an effort to save the state money.
The contract was already awarded to the Center for Disability Services in Albany by the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, and approved by the Office of General Services. However, the Division of Budget decided to pull out on that contract.
Almost a dozen lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle, are now calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to rethink the cut and restore the jobs. Eight of them gathered in front of the facility Wednesday to urge the reversal of the contract, or bring some change to help the facility.
“With the size of the budget that we have in New York state and the decisions that we can make to cut corners, cut them elsewhere, don’t cut them here. Don’t cut them on the backs of individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Assemblymember Mary Beth Walsh.
The lawmakers say more than $76 million in printing contracts are with non-New York vendors, and they are urging Governor Cuomo to bring those contracts back to the state.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara says the cuts don’t add up.
“It’s not about dollars and cents, but if it is, I think this shows, it brings value to the state,” said Santabarbara.
The state Division of Budget said the contract hadn’t been approved and not executed.
"The decision not to enter this contract was no reflection of the Preferred Source Program, which remains an important component of the State’s efforts to support our most vulnerable neighbors, or on this organization’s work or product," said Freeman Klopott, spokesman for the Division of the Budget. "We are continuing to review options to partner with them on other endeavors that would both generate savings and improve the effectiveness of the printing operations.”
The center says it already invested more than $4 million in new equipment for the contract. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in supplies are left sitting in the fulfillment center unused, with an expiration date ticking away.
More importantly, it was an exciting opportunity for Lauren Williams and 19 other employees that’s been ripped away. Her mother says Lauren’s job was the highlight of her life.
"It brought such a her such a sense great sense of pride and accomplishment,” said Lamkin Faddegon.
Now, Williams has been added to a statistic, showing that more than 65 percent of those with disabilities in New York are unemployed.
It’s also a worry for those who kept their job, like Lizzi, as he relies on that money to support his family.He says the Center of Disability Services has been a blessing, and he’s hurt to see the cuts the state has made.
“I can’t put it into words. All I can say is that it’s a blessing, and because of them working so hard, not just for me, but for others, you can live the best life you can,” said Lizzi.