By Mike Gross
Last week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced plans to cut $240 million from nonprofit providers of supports to New York State’s most vulnerable population. This is a 6 percent cut to agencies that have already sustained 9 percent cuts the last three years. These providers service 80 percent to 90 percent of all people with developmental disabilities who receive services.
The pending destruction of service is due to a controversy between Albany and Washington over rates charged by the state. The mutually agreed upon rates allowed New York to receive $5,000 per day for individuals residing in state institutions. At first glance this rate sounds deplorable, but it was the way to strengthen community services that allowed people to leave institutions while also providing for others living with their families to garner the support they needed to live safely and productively. The rate was scrutinized by Congress and four presidents for 30 years but is now an embarrassment to Congress and ripe for political payback. The result is devastating to our most vulnerable population.
All cuts fall to nonprofit providers with no impact to the state-operated system. With no funding increases in three years and no money for development, our families must shoulder more care that is unique to them. No other family group is left to provide cradle-to- grave care.
While a 6 percent cut may seem responsive to taxpayers, in truth it is irresponsible. One does not use a meat cleaver approach to serious fiscal problems (see sequester). Responsible cuts need to be precise, effective and leave room for regrowth when the opportunity arises.
While nonprofits are coping with cutting services, jobs and salaries, they are also being held to more regulations. Organizations are overtaxing shrinking resources in response to regulations that were put in place due to abuses found in state operations, not private agencies. Where is the promised regulatory relief so we could spend more time and money assisting individuals and less on paperwork?
Now the state has the gall to ask individuals and families to join in a partnership toward managed care, which will be our magic bullet. Managed care is doing less with less. So nonprofits are facing a total of $590 million worth of cuts that have happened or will occur, an increase in regulations and compliance that accompany managed care, a hostile attitude toward time-honored services while being asked to trust the government and partner into a future that is ill-defined and ill-conceived.
This is shameful action by Washington and Albany. It is harmful to our most vulnerable people, their families, our dedicated employees and the community as a whole. It speaks volumes as to our civilization and its true test.
Mike Gross is executive director of Heritage Centers.