On Sunday, April 9th, the Senate passed the New York State Budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year which began on April 1. In negotiations Governor Cuomo left out initiatives that the Disability Community has needed for years, and which have had the support of both the Assembly and the Senate.
Blocking Popular Proposals to Assist the Integration of Disabled New Yorkers
Among the proposals which the Governor did not include but which the Senate and Assembly included at the request of the Disability Community:
- A visitability tax credit to incentivize people making existing homes visitable to people with disabilities, facilitating better integration and participation of disabled New Yorkers in the social life of our communities.
- An incentive to include visitability in new construction, which would have served the same purpose with respect to new homes.
- A much-needed $1 million increase in funding for Independent Living Centers, which have been dramatically underfunded for many years.
Although the Senate and Assembly supported these proposals, the final budget the governor agreed to sign failed to include them; continuing Governor Cuomo’s years-long record of lip-service to and then substantive action against the integration and equality of disabled New Yorkers.
Allowing Ridesharing Companies to Discriminate in Upstate New York
In addition, the Governor proposed to allow so-called “ridesharing” companies such as Uber and Lyft to discriminate in upstate New York. Uber and Lyft have been allowed to discriminate against disabled people in New York City for several years, and have done so by refusing to directly provide rides to our community, instead charging our community a surcharge for the “service” of connecting disabled riders to an accessible taxi for a ride. The Governor made inaccessible ridesharing a priority in his budget this year and was able to get his way. The Governor’s ridesharing proposal calls for an 11-member accessibility task force which is to make recommendations by 2019, and only requires 2 representatives from the Disability Community. In the Disability Community our mantra is “Nothing about us without us” but it looks like Governor Cuomo has decided that it’s “Nothing about us without 18% of us.” It seems that Mr. Cuomo, who has said that “discrimination doesn’t work in New York,” has found a way to make discrimination work for him, and against disabled New Yorkers.
Ignoring Many Disability Priorities
The Disability Community in New York delivered a large number of proposals to the Governor in advance of the Budget last year. These included policy changes big and small to ensure the integration of disabled people in New York: the creation of a State Agency for disabled people; increasing the availability of accessible transportation and affordable, accessible, integrated housing; and increasing the employment of disabled people at competitive wages in integrated workplaces. The Governor has agreed to explore only one such proposal: the creation of a high needs community rate cell in Managed Care. We support this proposal and believe that, done correctly, it can make the State Medicaid system much better for people with significant disabilities who want to live in the community. Exploring this change is not nearly enough, however. Disabled people are forced into institutions under the Managed Care system which the Governor created, a system that is undercapitalized and that incentivizes institutional services over freedom, community, and equality.
The Governor has heard from the Disability Community, over and over again, how hard it is to secure community based services. We have documented the cuts to wages and hours that leave our people stranded and our lives at risk. The Governor has given almost nothing. A promise to explore a proposal is very nearly the minimum the Governor could do to secure the rights of disabled New Yorkers.
In the coming months, the Disability Community will continue to press the Governor to make good on his commitments to make New York a place where “discrimination doesn’t work,” to comply with Federal law regarding Community First Choice, and to stop excluding disabled New Yorkers from his vision of the Empire State.
ABOUT THE CENTER FOR DISABILITY RIGHTS
The Center for Disability Rights, CDR, is a disability led, not-for-profit organization headquartered in Rochester, New York, with satellite offices in Geneva, Corning, and Albany. CDR advocates for the full integration, independence, and civil rights of people with disabilities. CDR provides services to people with disabilities and seniors within the framework of an Independent Living Model, which promotes independence of people with all types of disabilities, enabling choice in living setting, full access to the community, and control of their life. CDR works for national, state, and local systemic change to advance the rights of people with disabilities by supporting direct action, coalition building, community organizing, policy analysis, litigation, training for advocates, and community education.