NEW YORK STATE BUDGET WINS, LOSSES AFFECT ILCS & DISABILITY COMMUNITY
By Erin Vallely, ATI Advocacy Specialist
Throughout February and March, the NYS disability community continued to advocate for our NYS budget priorities. In April, the final budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 was decided and voted on. Ultimately, the disability community had some wins, and some losses. Some of the most important outcomes include:
- Independent Living Center Network Funding – The network of independent living centers received a $1.6 million increase in funding to be shared amongst the centers. While this was not the full amount the network advocated for, we are grateful for the first funding raise in many years that brings our network budget to a total of $16 million. The funding will be divided by all the centers in the state and allow each office to offer more services and supports to those we serve.
- Home Care Worker Wages – Although both the NYS Senate and NYS Assembly included the Fair Pay for Home Care Act in their house budgets, it was ultimately cut from the final budget, along with worker bonuses. In place of this, beginning in October 2022, home care workers will earn $2 an hour over minimum wage and another $1 over minimum wage beginning October 2023. Some home care workers will also be able to bill for overtime. While this raise is welcome, it is not enough to improve staff retention, or recruit new workers to the field. This initiative will not address the severe worker shortage the state faces.
- Medicaid – The income limit for disabled individuals was increased to 138% of the Federal Poverty Line, up from 87%, to the levels applied to all other Medicaid applicants. The asset limit was not removed as advocates pushed for, but it will be increased by about 50% in January 2023. The Medicaid Spending Cap was also improved, but not eliminated. Additionally, all Medicaid services providers will receive a 1% raise in reimbursement rates. These adjustments will help improve, but not solve, access issues to the vital community services Medicaid provides to disabled and elderly individuals.
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program – Although the disability and aging communities advocated for increased funding of $6.4 million, the final budget increased funding by $2.5 million. While this is not the amount we were seeking, this additional funding will allow providers to increase the number of staff serving people living in care facilities. The ombudsman program is responsible for helping residents understand and exercise their rights to good care in an environment that promotes and protects their dignity and quality of life.
- Access to Home – Despite both the NYS Senate and NYS Assembly supporting increased funding for the program, ultimately only about $1 million was allocated in the final budget. The program funds accessibility improvements and modifications to living spaces occupied by low to moderate-income disabled individuals. This program has been historically underfunded and unable to fulfil NYS residents' needs. Without accessible and safe housing, people will continue to be forced into care facilities.
While the budget has been finalized, our advocacy cannot lose momentum. In the coming months, we will continue to advocate for these, and other, policy issues. Here are some steps you can take to contribute to the disability community’s efforts.
- Visit https://openstates.org/ to find your state representatives and contact information – send them an email, letter, or call to thank them for their support of disability budget priorities during the budget session
- Read more information about the policy changes that may impact you or the people you care about, so you understand the changes
- Sign up for ATI’s advocacy alerts at https://www.aticortland.org/news-and-events/advocacy to stay updated on opportunities to get involved