By Erin Vallely, ATI Advocacy Specialist
December 20, 2023
Once staff return from the holiday break, it will be time to turn our advocacy efforts towards the 2024 New York State budget. Each year, the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL) works with the state’s independent living centers (ILCs) to determine what issues require funding. The highest priorities are included in a budget proposal to the governor’s office. This means they ask the governor to set aside money to support these issues. It is important to advocate for funding so people are aware these issues exist and are properly addressed.
Importance of Political Advocacy
Political advocacy is important to the disability and chronic illness community for many reasons. Many people, including government representatives, do not know about every issue a group faces. No one can be an expert in every topic. When we advocate for an issue, we get to teach lawmakers about our concerns and help them understand what we need as a community. Oftentimes, our advocacy directly influences the decisions our representatives make. They might agree that a proposed law is, or is not, a good idea and then vote for, or against, it.
2024 NYS Budget Priorities
As members of the disability and chronic illness community and allies, it is important to know about the biggest issues our community faces. Here is a summary of our main priorities in 2024.
Increase ILC Funding: The 2023 NYS budget did not include independent living center’s in the cost-of-living adjustment other human services organizations received. ILCs provide important services to people with disabilities as well as employ and empower people with disabilities. The cost of providing these services is going up, and ILCs require more funding to ensure that quality of care and daily operations are not negatively impacted.
Fair Pay for Home Care: Low wages for home care workers has led to a shortage. Many people who need help are forced to live in institutions (such as nursing homes) because they cannot find enough staff to live safely at home. While we did win a slight raise in the 2023 budget, it is still not enough to retain and recruit more home care workers. We want to see the Fair Pay for Home Care bill funded so people are paid at least 150% of the minimum wage.
Homecare Eligibility Requirements: The Medicaid Redesign Team submitted proposals to change Medicaid that would make certain people ineligible for community-based Long Term Supports and Services. These changes would make it much harder for people to receive home care services, introduce a discriminatory eligibility standard, and put people at risk for injury, institutionalization, and hospitalization. We want these changes repealed.
Access to Home Funding: Access to Home is a program that provides physical modifications to homes for disabled and chronically ill individuals. Without these modifications, many people are at risk for unsafe living conditions or institutionalization. Right now, few people can use the program because the funding is low. While we did win a funding raise in the 2023 budget, we want to see the program funded at $10 million annually.
Expand Paratransit: At a minimum, paratransit service must be provided to disabled people within ¾ of a mile of the closest bus stop. However, as public transportation companies cut routes, disabled and ill people lose access to transportation services. Private transportation options are either too expensive or simply unavailable. We urge the state to fund paratransit programs so they can provide adequate services to anyone in a county regardless of location.
Although it is unlikely, we will be granted each of our funding requests, we always make important progress. It is important to keep advocating year after year because all progress is better than none. The more people who know about our needs, the stronger our advocacy power will be.
Advocacy can be intimidating. It is important to understand the issues you are talking about and have confidence in yourself to advocate for yourself and the community as a whole. Here are some resources you can use to learn more about the issues and how to be a good advocate.
- Read the original NYAIL budget request letter at https://ilny.us/images/Documents/NYAIL_2024_Budget_Priorities_Letter_10.2.23.pdf
- Watch this video from The Arc of Washington State on how to be a good political advocate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0cUj6-uJjU
- Sign up for Resistbot, a free digital service that makes it very easy to contact your government representatives by going to https://resist.bot/