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Developmental disabilities agencies facing steep cuts

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Albany/HV: Developmental disabilities agencies facing steep cuts
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Facing deep cuts, leaders of local organizations that work with the developmentally disabled are calling on state leaders to restore the funding they rely on. YNN's Matt Hunter reports.

NEW YORK -- In a small classroom in Saratoga Springs on Friday, a half-dozen developmentally disabled adults at Saratoga Bridges baked cookies for a local shelter.

30 miles south at the Warren-Washington and Albany County ARC (WWAARC) headquarters, another group sorted mail and retail products for local businesses.

The two gathers represent just a few of the roughly 120,000 developmentally disabled individuals receiving services from New York's government and not-for-profit agencies. The level of support they receive ranges from round the clock clinical and medical care to job training and placement.

"It means I can get out a little more than I used to and see more people," said Scott Kennedy, a 44-year-old who attends Saratoga Bridges every day.

Some of these services are now in jeopardy, following a proposed six percent reduction to developmental disabilities services funding in Governor Cuomo’s budget address. The state Office of People With Developmental Disabilities is looking at $120 million in cuts alone.

"If those cuts go through, the level of service we provide is in jeopardy," said Peter Guidarelli, a spokesperson for WWAARC.

"Most importantly, it would really affect the quality New York State is known for as far as supporting people with developmental disabilities," said Valerie Muratori, executive director at Saratoga Bridges.

Saratoga Bridges is facing a $1.3 million cut on its $27 million annual budget, which could affect at least 40 staff.

ARC, which works with more than 800 individuals daily, would lose more than $2 million.

On Friday, several state lawmakers urged the Governor to put those funds back in place.

"This is on top of several years of cuts, essentially, so it's something they can't absorb," said Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk, who spoke at a rally at Schenectady County ARC.

Morris Peters, a spokesperson for the state Division of the Budget, issued a statement that read:

"The federal government has held that for more than 20 years New York has been reimbursed in excess of what it costs to provide OPWDD services. To resolve this longstanding issue for once and for all, the state is reconciling the rate to the level that the federal government believes is appropriate.”

“While we’re sensitive to the possible effects of less federal funding for these services, they are necessary so we can move forward and put this dispute in the past.”

In recent weeks, leaders from various agencies, along with many of the individuals they serve, have been urging lawmakers to stand behind them, in hopes of not only keeping their funds in place, but also the programs they hold dear.

"The individuals we serve on a daily basis are more than just budget numbers on a page," Guidarelli said.

"Dramatic effect, I can't say anything more than that,” said Kennedy, who visited the Capitol Thursday to advocate on his own behalf. “It's going to be a really dramatic effect on us."

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