ILCs have been woefully underfunded for the past twelve years and have been losing ground. After receiving level funding for eleven years, ILCs received a much needed increase of $1 million in the 2015-16 budget. This $1 million increase was intended to provide each of the existing 39 state funded ILCs with a $25,641 increase. While this amount doesn’t come close to making up for eleven years with no cost of living adjustment given the rising cost of doing business - including the costs associated with general operating expenses, health insurance, workers compensation insurance, disability insurance, etc. – it was a start.
However, almost three months into our new contract year, during which centers were forced to operate without contracts or funding, we were notified by the State Education Department that there has been a change prompted by the Office of the State Comptroller to how this $1 million will be distributed. Instead of splitting the $1 million equally between the 39 state-funded ILCs, the funding is also being used to create two new state-funded ILCs. This change results in a $10,074 cut to existing centers’ budgets mid contract year. So centers did not even get the full increase that the State allocated in last year’s budget.
Independent Living funding provides base operating funds to ensure the ability of centers to remove barriers to full and equal access for people with disabilities and access to core independent living (IL) services. New York must increase IL funding to sustain essential IL services statewide. ILCs are indispensable community-based advocacy and service organizations that serve as the safety net to ensure people with disabilities have access to services and supports to liveindependently in their communities. All centers provide a core set of IL services and a person-centered roadmap for meeting individual life goals, including: information and referral, peer counseling, independent living skills training, and individual and systems advocacy. Additional services vary between centers depending on the needs of their community.
An additional $5 million to the ILC network would not only enable centers to maintain our current staff and services, but expand the services our center provides as well. Centers use a disability-led planning process to identify the most pressing needs in our communities which inform the services centers provide. Through these planning processes, centers have identified pressing needs that we do not currently have the funding to offer. For example, here in Cortland County, ATI would commit additional funds towards employment and work readiness services as well as to institutional transition and diversion and youth transition services for people with disabilities.
For each center the needs of the community may vary, but all communities have unmet needs that the State’s network of Independent Living Centers could address with additional funding.
The status of people with disabilities across New York State shows a high rate of poverty; low-employment and wages; low median household income; health disparities; low educational attainment; high homelessness; extremely high rent burdens and lack of home ownership; lack of accessible transportation; poor nutritional status; poor access to State and local services—as shown by the United States Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey.
Ensuring ILCs are adequately funded is also essential to achieving successful Olmstead implementation in New York and would result in additional Medicaid savings to the State. Data from ACCES-VR, show that the work of ILCs to transition and divert people with disabilities from costly institutional placements saved the State more than $1.7 billion since 2001 as a result of avoided institutional care. ILC transition and diversion activities save the State more than $9 in institutionalization costs for every state dollar invested in ILCs. ILCs are well placed to assist in implementing Olmstead by helping individuals with disabilities to access the services and supports needed to live independently and fully integrated in their communities. New York has an opportunity to realize significant savings to the state while meeting its goal of implementing Olmstead by investing in ILCs - the unique, disability-led organizations that have done the most to ensure reduced use of institutions.
Increasing IL funding by a mere $5 million will allow the Independent Living Centers across New York State to continue their crucial work in assisting individuals with disabilities to live independent, fully integrated lives in the community and will allow these centers to continue saving the state a significant amount in the Medicaid program.
Action: Call the Governor's Office (1-518-474-8390) and urge Governor Cuomo to increase funding for ILCs by $5 million.