Sandra and Dave Pickens have been married for thirty years. Their daughter Tessa suffered a stroke at age 5 and has lived with a disability ever since. As the state closed during the pandemic, officials provided no options or guidance for their daughter. 

What You Need To Know

  • Families with loved ones who have developmental disabilities struggled during the pandemic.

  • One family says their daughter's life was upended and she struggled to regain her routine.

  • They say there was a communication failure on when they could reopen.

  • Advocates, meanwhile, worry about funding cuts for service providers.


"We're not political people," Dave Pickens said in an interview. "We're just mom and dad. And this whole it's been eye opening how dsyfunctional the state government works." 

The pandemic upended everyone's life, but for those whose loved ones have disabilities, the crisis has been far more complicated. 

"Who's going to watch them?" Dave said. "There had to be communication. There was none. They had no plans."

Tessa is back now attending day services since last month. But the Pickens are still confused and upset as to why the state failed to communicate during the crisis and how reopening for them would work. 

"I know everything had to stop because of the virus, I was totally shocked the way they treated the population with disabilities," Sandra said. "We thought they aren't going to forget the disabled population and that's exactly what they did."

But the disruption of everyday life had an effect on Tessa, who lost her daily routine and struggled during the shutdown.

Advocates for those with disabilities say the state needed to take extra care to support its most vulnerable population

"We were seeing things happening around us like what phase does this group of people fall into and nobody could give us an answer," Sandra said. 

Non-profit groups remain concerned, meanwhile, the state could further cut funding for those like Tessa who have developmental disabilities and need daily services provided to them. 

"You know who needs to do their job? Governor Cuomo needs to do their job," Sandra said. "And the right thing is to take care of this population."

But much of the funding question will hinge on what Washington can provide after the pandemic shattered New York's tax revenue. 

“New York State has reduced spending by $4 billion since April as we contend with federal inaction and revenues declining by 14% -- $61 billion over four years – by freezing hiring, new contracts and pay raises, and holding back 20% of payments," said Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the governor's budget office.

"This means lower spending for police, schools, health care, roads, courts, and support for our most vulnerable neighbors. The Federal government must act to provide states with the resources we need or the negative impacts of its failure to do so thus far will only deepen.”