It was a reversal of fortune.
A $120 million cut to the Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) would have left programs shorthanded, officials said. But the state legislature eliminated the threat and voted unanimously to fully restore what was lost.
The Assembly voted last week to appropriate $90 million for OPWDD. That was in addition to $30 million already restored during the budget process. The Senate approved the funds the next day.
Assemblymember Nily Rozic, an OPWDD advocate, has worked closely with organizations such as the Queens Centers for Progress and said the need for services is “enormous.”
“There’s no reason to penalize this community, their families and their caretakers,” she said.
When the cuts were officially made earlier this year, Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said the hardest part in passing the budget was accepting the OPWDD reductions.
“After passing the budget, we committed to doing whatever necessary to restore it,” he said. “This affects real people and real jobs.”
Goldfeder said he has seen firsthand how the cuts affect the disabled and their families even though he has been chair of the Autism Retention Committee for just a few months.
“It’s painful,” he said. “There’s no better role for the government to protect its citizens than the restoration of these cuts.”
The total $120 million restoration will go directly to facilities that provide services to the developmentally disabled, Goldfeder said.
Although the restoration went through, OPWDD funds still need to be increased in order to provide the best care, officials said. After an initial cut several years ago, OPWDD has seen no increase in funding.
However, Goldfeder said last week’s budget reversal was just a first step, and that there is a bright economic outlook for the future.
“This is the first place we have to look to restore a lot of the cuts that have taken place over the years,” he said.