Preliminary Budget Analysis: Governor Cuomo experiencing a different pandemic from the rest of us.

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CDR wishes to highlight a few things that have stood out immediately in a preliminary analysis. In his budget address, much like his State of the State speeches before it, Governor Cuomo emphasized his determination to win the war on COVID-19. Unfortunately, early impressions of the Governor’s budget leave one believing that the Governor has experienced a very different pandemic from the rest of us. It would appear that the Governor is more concerned about the economic impact of the pandemic than the human cost. In the Governor’s pandemic the thousands of deaths in nursing facilities are less important than the lost income of businesses.

Learning the wrong lessons from COVID-19

The Governor sees “Enhancing Nursing Home Quality of Care” as a budget priority. CDR believes Governor Cuomo should focus his priorities on community-based alternatives to nursing homes and congregate housing.  The lessons many of us have taken from the last ten months appear to have been lost on the Governor. The Disability Community has watched in horror as disabled residents in nursing facilities and other institutions have died in the massacre, making up 37% percent of the total Coronavirus death toll. The pandemic has led much of the nation to reach a conclusion that we have long known – that nursing home system is irreparably broken. We are gravely concerned that that Governor Cuomo’s initiatives to reduce Medicaid spending have destabilized these community-based alternatives to institutionalization, when now – more than ever – we must invest in home and community based services.

Governor Cuomo needs to understand that there are no reforms that can make the warehousing of disabled people a better, safer or a more humane system. It is based on a fundamentally flawed model. Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) are the only way forward. The Freedom to live in the community is a civil right that must be ensured for every New Yorker. Not only are these services what people want for themselves, but they have been proven to be safer and unlike nursing homes, they do not steal people’s lives. 

Budget worsens the workforce crisis

In addition to or perhaps because of the Governor’s continued faith in nursing facilities, the proposed budget disinvests in home care. Following on last year’s cut of 25% for the workforce recruitment and retention fund, the Governor’s proposed 2022 budget further cuts the fund by another 50%. The workforce shortage is at crisis levels. We have seen members of the Disability Community forced into institutions because they cannot hire personal attendants to allow them to live independently in the community. The Governor has made the crisis from this pandemic worse.

In light of his past efforts to incentivize institutionalization and shrink home care services such as Consumer Directed Personal Assistance, it is understandable the members of the Disability Community feel that they are under attack by this Governor and his administration. The Disability Community urges the Governor to address this workforce crisis by ensuring that home care attendants are paid no less than 150% of the minimum wage.

Other things we will be looking into further

In a full budget analysis next week CDR will address a number of other budget items. Notably the Governor’s steadfast insistence on extending the global cap, the cuts he is proposing to Independent Living Centers, as well as proposals related to revenue, housing, transportation and other infrastructure investments that affect the Disability Community.