Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 8, 2013

Rally targets funding cuts to disabled

Niagara Gazette — A group of state legislators joined health care service employees and members of the developmentally disabled community on Friday to protest a proposed $120 million cut in funding to the New York State Office of People with Developmental Disabilities.

Local businessman Joseph Cecconi stood in front of a group of about 100 with his daughter, Mary Jo, who is deaf and suffers from a disease that is slowly taking her sight, as he explained what the cuts would mean for agencies like Opportunities Unlimited in Niagara Falls where the press conference was held.

"She's developed into quite a young lady," Cecconi said pointing to Mary Jo. "Pretty much everything that's happened is a result of the services provided by this agency. She's just one of many."

Cecconi had trouble holding back tears as he spoke of the sense of fulfillment Mary Jo gets from her workshop job. She brought her report card with her to the press conference at the Opportunities Unlimited location on Factory Outlet Boulevard in order to show the audience. 

"It's not about us parents," Cecconi said.

The funding cut was included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget as part of his 30-day amendments. Not-for-profits that serve the developmentally disabled community would be hurt by the 6 percent reduction twice over, as that budget line is matched by the federal government. That would mean agencies throughout the state would see $240 million less than what was originally included in Cuomo's budget plan when he rolled it out in January.

The budget amendment was put in place in an effort to fill a $500 million budget gap that has emerged since the federal government announced changes in how it will reimburse the state for its costs related to caring for people with developmental disabilities.

State lawmakers, including Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, R-Clarence, Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-Lewiston and Assemblyman Raymond Walter, R-Amherst, held the press conference on Friday to discuss the proposed funding reductions.

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