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Lawmakers seek funding for people with disabilities

New York State Senator Tim Kennedy and New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan joined advocates from the Learning Disabilities Association , Starlight Studios, the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York, and Aspire of Western New York to push for full funding restoration for the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities in the final state budget. The Executive budget proposal calls for cutting funding to the OPWDD by $120 million dollars, a 6 percent cut. Earlier this week, the Assembly and Senate passed their versions of the budget, and both houses included a full restoration of these cuts. Such a drastic cut in state support could be potentially devastating to non-for-profit community providers that help to support New Yorkers with developmental disabilities. Kennedy and Ryan and advocates pushed for the restored funding to be included in the final state budget that will be voted on next week.

Kennedy and Ryan were joined at Starlight Studios by Marc Hennig, deputy executive director of the Learning Disabilities Association, Wendy McCarthy, executive director of the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York, and Thomas Sy, executive director of Aspire of Western New York.

Starlight Studios was created by the Learning Disabilities Association of Western New York. It is an art studio and gallery located in downtown Buffalo which supports adults with disabilities in their artistic development. Their gallery features exhibitions by the Starlight artists, and the gallery is open to the public and available to the community for other exhibitions. Starlight Studios receives funding from the OPWDD, and their ability to offer programs and resources would be severely hindered by a 6% cut in funding.

Senator Tim Kennedy, an occupational therapist who has worked with individuals with disabilities, has been working to secure full restoration of these potentially devastating cuts. “These cuts pose a major threat to our state’s most vulnerable citizens. If enacted, they would jeopardize critical services that individuals with disabilities and their families rely on,” Kennedy said. “We must restore state aid to protect the people who need our support the most. This fight is not yet over. The State Legislature has made it a priority to eliminate these cuts, and now we must ensure that this critical funding remains a part of the final budget plan as negotiations continue.”

“We are here today to keep up the pressure and demand a full funding restoration for the OPWDD so that great places like Starlight Studios can continue to make our communities thrive,” said Assemblyman Ryan. “Both the Assembly and Senate found a way to pass a balanced budget without cutting funding for those who need it the most. The final state budget must follow the same principle, and these potentially devastating cuts cannot be allowed to happen.”

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