Cuts to services to people with developmental disabilities could have a far wider impact amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For people living in group homes, visitations are made more complicated.
And the difficult budget is not making matters any easier.
"We're talking here about people here with disabilities, but just about every family in New York state has someone in their family who is affected by someone with a type of disability," said Assemblyman Tom Abinanti. "If you follow facts, if you follow the science, you see New York is not doing what it should be doing for people with disabilities."
At issue is the potential for withholding spending in the Medicaid program amid an historic budget crisis and multi-billion dollar budget gap that needs to be filled next year. Lawmakers and advocates on Monday in a news conference urged the state to reverse course.
"COVID has become an excuse to eliminate services," Abinanti said. "We see a transfer of decision making from OPWDD to the Dpeartment of Health and the Division of the Budget. Money is driving policy and benign neglect is turning into active abandonment."
Issues facing the developmentally disabled community is it's a point of bipartisan support in the Legislature. Republicans like Assemblywoman Missy Miller are supportive of the push back agains the cuts.
"It's not a secret. It's COVID. A lot of things are getting cut," Miller said. "We're all aware of that. But this is not an excuse to continue to keep stripping our community of the supports and services we nee do so desperately, for our individuals, our loved ones, to continue to successfully integrate into society."
Meanwhile advocates at the New York Alliance for Developmental Disabilities has taken out billboard space in Albany along Interstate 787 to highlight the impact of the cuts.
The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities in a statement said the COVID crisis has required them to withhold money on a temporary basis.
“The Budget enacted by the legislature for this fiscal year required savings, and the State chose to preserve critical services to individuals rather than fund empty beds," said spokeswoman Jennifer O'Sullivan.
"In addition, as a result of the federal failure to offset the state’s devastating revenue loss amounting to nearly $63 billion over four years, we also have had no choice but to temporarily hold back a portion of state funded payments. We encourage providers and families to join us in calling on the federal government to act so the state can continue to fund critical services for New Yorkers.”