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NY Budget Plan Preserves Key Safety Net Provision

December 3, 2009

NEW YORK, NY - The budget deal struck in Albany Wednesday is being applauded for preserving key social safety net provisions that help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers below the poverty line. Lawmakers rejected Gov. Paterson's plan to slash $11 million from Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is the state fund that provides monthly disability checks to 700,000 elderly and disabled residents.

At the Center for Independence of the Disabled, executive director Susan Dooha says those monthly checks make the difference between a person either living at home or ending up in an institution or on the street.

"People with disabilities wrote, called, visited, demonstrated, and we are so grateful the legislature shared our concern; we have managed to avoid those cuts for now. That is such a relief."

While SSI was spared the budget ax, Dooha is worried about $112 million in cuts to community services, including those for people who are developmentally disabled. Cuts to state operating funds are the main way the plan tackles about 85 percent of New York's budget deficit. Gov. Paterson was critical of the compromise measure, but says he intends to sign the plan into law.

Other important social safety net programs did not fare as well, says Dooha. Lawmakers cut nearly $58 million from state mental health programs and $19 million from substance abuse treatment.

"Programs that help people with psychiatric disabilities, or who need drug and alcohol treatment, experienced some of the biggest cuts. We don't think cuts like these make sense, especially during a deep recession when so many people are in crisis and need this kind of help."

Dooha also expressed concern that the state and city university systems, which she called the ladder out of poverty for people with disabilities, also suffered deep cuts.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY