Disability Activists Achieve Historic Win, Save ILCs as FIs for CDPAP

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After over a week of near constant demonstration in the Capitol building in Albany, our activists have had a historic impact on what was posed to be devastating legislation for the New York disability community. Instead of fully transferring administration of the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program to a single for-profit, out-of-state fiscal intermediary as Governor Hochul had initially planned, the budget now contains language to protect Independent Living Centers in their role in administering CDPAP. This is a major victory for us here at the Center for Disability Rights, and we want to thank all parties involved in reaching this budget deal for their tireless work. We especially want to highlight the hard work of those who went with us to Albany to directly demonstrate in the Capitol overnight: your work both directly made and changed the course of history.

What The Initial Budget Would Have Done

Governor Hochul’s budget initially spelled disaster for the disability community when we learned of it last week. In its initial form, the proposed budget would have removed ILCs as fiscal intermediaries for the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program, instead moving over to a system of a single, for-profit, out-of-state fiscal intermediary. This change would have affected the ways in which loved ones of disabled individuals are compensated for their caregiving, and would have forced many disabled individuals across New York State into institutions. With CDPAP and the lives of countless disabled New Yorkers on the line, we knew something must be done to prevent this budget moving forward, and our employees leapt into action.

The Impact of Our Work This Week

Since last Thursday, activists with the Center for Disability Rights have been in Albany occupying the Capitol building in protest. The action was an unprecedented historic success; while our activists took to the Capitol fully preparing to be arrested, no arrests were made during the entire week of action. Capitol police threatened arrest and even physically engaged several of our staff, but never followed through. Instead, we were able to remain in the Capitol building overnight, marking ourselves as the first group to do so outside of government officials. With this historic action accomplished, the media began to take note of our work, turning the tide further in our favor.

Individuals from all across New York contacted their elected officials voicing their anger over the Governor’s proposed budget, and as word began to spread about the potential impacts that this budget would have on the disabled community, it became clear that the budget would not have the votes to pass in its existing form. Assembly Members began to support us and our cause, but still our activists fought to have their voice heard by Governor Hochul. Finally, we were able to engage in negotiations with several involved parties, going back and forth on the language of the budget to define the best way to protect CDPAP and disabled New Yorkers from a single for-profit intermediary. Despite many challenges, including the Governor taking time away from work and being reluctant to engage in-person with our protestors in the Capitol, a new budget deal was reached just this morning, April 19.

The New Budget And ILC Protections

While the new budget language is still being finalized, this much is clear: Independent Living Centers will be protected as fiscal intermediaries for the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program. ILCs like us here at the Center for Disability Rights will be able to continue our incredibly important work and provide consumers with choices that keep them safe at home with their loved ones. The administering of CDPAP will not be fully moved to a single fiscal intermediary, as was originally planned; this new budget specifically protects ILCs and ensures we will be able to continue to act as fiscal intermediaries for CDPAP as we have for decades. In short: this is a massive victory for Independent Living Centers, disabled New Yorkers, and the disability community as a whole. This result is the direct outcome of the advocacy our organization and many others have participated in this week, and we are deeply grateful to all who helped in this fight.

In Appreciation of Our Activists

This post would not be complete without acknowledging the hard work of our entire team, but specifically those who demonstrated in Albany both this and last week. Intervening in this budget proposal took all aspects of this organization, and there is not a single person here at CDR who is not deserving of thanks. To that end: thank you all for your incredibly hard work during this critical time. Your actions have both made history and guaranteed a future for countless disabled individuals across New York. The fact that we were able to successfully defend and save this program also sets an excellent precedent for future threats to the disability community; we have shown that we keep us safe, and we are willing to fight to protect our collective rights. This sends a message to politicians nationwide that will not be soon forgotten.

We also would like to thank those who have supported us during this time by contacting your local officials and spreading the message about this situation; your effort was also critical in turning the tide in our favor. This budget deal would not have resolved the way it did without the collective efforts of the broader disability community banding together to call, email, and otherwise contact our elected officials en masse. Let this moment go to show that we the people can make a difference in the outcome of our local and state politics, even in affairs that would normally happen behind closed doors. We look forward to seeing what this new budget language will mean for the future of disability rights, and we thank everyone who played a role in saving CDPAP and ILCs.