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The original item was published from 3/19/2024 3:45:00 PM to 3/19/2024 3:46:19 PM.

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Legislative District 12

Posted on: March 19, 2024

[ARCHIVED] Hochul’s Budget Fails People with Disabilities


LI Herald com logoPosted March 8, 2024
By Michael Giangregorio

 

When I was elected to the Nassau County Legislature in 2023, I pledged to make it my mission to champion the rights of individuals with disabilities on the local, state, and federal levels to the best of my ability.

I find myself deeply troubled by the recent budget proposal put forth by Governor Kathy Hochul. In the intricate web of state budgets, the allocation of resources becomes a powerful reflection of values and priorities. Governor Hochul’s recent budget proposal, however, raises significant concerns about equity and fair distribution of resources, particularly regarding Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) in volunteer agencies and the 853 schools statewide catering to students with disabilities.

The commitment to supporting individuals with disabilities is a cornerstone of any just and compassionate society. DSPs in volunteer agencies are the unsung heroes of our communities and play a crucial role in ensuring the well-being of those with disabilities, providing essential care and support. Their work is demanding, often emotionally and physically, yet the proposed budget allocates only a 1.5% Cost of Living Adjustment for those working in volunteer agencies, whose hourly wages are $18. This fraction of the budget hardly reflects the true value of their contributions to the well-being of our society.

State-employed DSPs, who already enjoy higher salaries, New York State benefits, and a retirement plan, are being favored with more substantial rate increases compared to their counterparts in volunteer agencies. This lopsided allocation not only undervalues the critical work done by DSPs in volunteer organizations but also jeopardizes the quality of care provided to those who need it the most.

Coupled with preferential treatment for state DSP employees and a substantial $2.4 billion allocated for migrants, which encompasses short-term shelter services, healthcare, emergency housing centers, and legal assistance, Governor Hochul is sending a disconcerting message about the state’s commitment to its most vulnerable citizens and educational institutions. The question that arises is whether the state is neglecting its own citizens, particularly those with disabilities, in favor of other causes.

Furthermore, the budget fails to address the longstanding issue of underfunding for 853 schools that cater to students with disabilities. These schools, already grappling with resource shortages, have never received a fair share of entitlements. The lack of resources hampers their ability to provide quality education and support to students who need it the most. The perpetuation of this educational inequality raises serious concerns about the state’s commitment to providing equal opportunities for all students, regardless of their socio-economic background.

Despite the challenges they face in providing specialized programs and services, they continue to be shortchanged by a system that should prioritize the educational needs of all its students. Governor Hochul’s budget missed a golden opportunity to rectify this historical injustice, further exacerbating the struggles faced by students with disabilities and the schools that serve them.

It is dismaying to witness the neglect of essential workers and marginalized schools while significant funds are allocated elsewhere. As engaged citizens, we must question and challenge these disparities. We have a responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable, urging them to reconsider budgetary allocations to ensure that resources are distributed equitably among all deserving sectors of our society. A budget is not merely a financial document; it reflects our collective values and priorities as a community.

Governor Hochul’s budget proposal necessitates a critical examination of the state’s commitment to equity and fairness. Let us stand together in advocating for a budget that reflects the principles of justice and compassion, one that prioritizes the well-being of all citizens, from Direct Support Professionals and students in underfunded schools to migrants seeking refuge within our borders. Only through such collective action can we build a society that truly values and uplifts all its members.

 

Michael Giangregorio

Nassau County Legislator

12th Legislative District

 

Michael Giangregorio is a county legislator for Legislative District 12, which comprises Bellmore, Wantagh and parts of Seaford and Merrick

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