Don’t balance budget on backs of disabled

As rumors swirl about the restoration of only a fraction of the $120 million in cuts to the state budget that will directly impact funding to local nonprofits that serve the developmentally disabled, it is shocking what you hear from lawmakers in Albany. Without exception, each leader I called blamed the other party, the other legislative body or the governor; not one person accepted any accountability. This is despite the fact that it is precisely these legislative leaders who have authorized a percentage of the $120 million to be returned to the federal Center for Medicaid Services that is set to be reimbursed with the cuts.

As an advocate on behalf of Aspire of WNY and volunteer president of its board of directors, with each passing day it appears more likely that the budget is going to be balanced on the backs of the developmentally disabled. While not only morally wrong, these cuts will have devastating and lasting impacts on this community, now and for years to come.

In response to the state’s initial budget, Aspire has already had to reduce day habilitation offerings and close our center-based early intervention program, leaving our community’s youngest developmentally disabled children with few, if any, viable options for a similar service. Now, we will again assuredly face additional program cuts, staff layoffs and the reduction in the quality of life of the 3,200 individuals and families Aspire supports.

If these cuts are approved, our elected leaders will effectively punish our most vulnerable for Albany’s own misuse and mismanagement of federal Medicaid dollars. Allowing this to take place is far from actual leadership and in reality, tantamount to dereliction of duty, if not worse. The time is now for a true leader to emerge, and if not, start the process to elect others.

Jacob Herstek