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Agencies present budget concerns

TRI-COUNTY AREA—Gov. Paterson’s proposed budget promising to cut funds everywhere prompted area county Arc groups to voice their concerns in Albany Jan. 27.
Representatives from a total of 11 Arc agencies were joined by over 300 individuals and members of the New York Association of Community and Residential Agencies. Jim Wilson, executive director of the Arc of Schuyler, Steve Rogers, president of the Self Advocates of Schuyler County, and Brian Brockelkamp, director of Glen Industries, spoke with Assemblyman Thomas O’Mara and senior staff from Sen. George Winner’s office.
“We believe that the broad financial reductions in the governor’s 2009/10 budget are something that we cannot accept. We are concerned about these cuts on people with developmental disabilities,” said Wilson.
“We talked about the cuts in the budget and how they affect support,” said Brockelkamp. “Such as the decrease in wages for direct support.”
He added that with the budget cuts, direct support professionals are leaving for higher paying jobs. According to the Arc of Schuyler County, support professionals do work comparable to other professionals but with starting salaries of much less.
Another concern the Arc representatives shared was over a project the Arc of Schuyler had to put on hold. They had plans to downsize three large residencies. According to the Arc, that project has been put on hold, stopping any further progress to plans that have in the works for two years now.
“I understand in these times the financial crunch the state is under, but with the population of people we serve being so vulnerable (...) we have to be sure they’re not hurt,” said Bernie Burns, executive director for the Arc of Steuben.
The Self Advocates gave their real life experiences and concerns as well.
“If people keep cutting the budget we won’t have anywhere to work,” said Rogers.
Funds the Arc receives are also used and programs and events. The Self Advocates have had to hold fundraisers to pay for going to conferences in Albany and other events because there was not enough funds.
“People with disabilities are feeling positive about themselves and not negative,” he added about how effective these events are.
Brockelkamp said that the meeting went well because O’Mara and Winner’s staff member were able to hear from individuals directly affected by the proposed cuts.

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