Disability advocates condemn budget proposal to enrich an out-of-state corporation at the expense of the Disability community

By Max Rodriguez | April 11, 2024

The Center for Disability Rights (CDR) condemns a NYS budget proposal advanced by Assembly Democrats and embraced by Governor Hochul to take administration of the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) away from the Disability Community and enrich a massive, for-profit, out-of-state corporation.

“When did Democrats decide that it was good policy to steal from the poor and Disabled to give to the rich,” said Kenyatta DaCosta, Chair of the CDR Board of Directors who also uses CDPAP. “Governor Hochul, Speaker Heastie, and the Assembly Democrats advancing this proposal should be ashamed of themselves.”

CDPAP was originally conceived by and for the Disability Community.  Independent Living Centers (ILCs) have successfully administered the program with integrity for over 30 years, fostering peer support networks and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.  CDPAP has served as a cornerstone in empowering people with significant disabilities to have control over their own lives, allowing many to transition out of institutions and live independently in the community.

“CDR used this program to transition the first ventilator-dependent quadriplegic back into the community from a nursing facility,” said Ann Kaplow, CDR cofounder and Lead Transition Specialist.  “I am so proud of our organization and the work we do.  Unlike for-profit corporations, CDR didn’t use the program to enrich itself.  Instead, we developed a model for the transition work that I am doing today.  We trained people across the country as well, so literally thousands of disabled individuals are living in freedom because of our work.  For-profit corporations won’t do that.”

CDR acknowledges that there is a real problem with the program as it is currently administered in the state.  “There is no disagreement that bad actors are using the CDPAP program as a Medicaid mill to enrich themselves,” said Maximino Rodriguez, CDR Manager of Government Affairs.  “The state already has the tools to address that issue, but has simply refused to use them. For example, over half of the existing fiscal intermediaries have not filed required financial reports.  The state could simply eliminate them for their noncompliance.”

Rather than addressing the unscrupulous behavior of bad actors, Governor Hochul has latched onto a budget proposal advanced by Speaker Heastie to consolidate all CDPAP services under a single for-profit corporation.  This proposal would eliminate the Disability-led non-profit organizations that helped develop this program, including CDR.

The Center for Disability Rights was one of the Disability-led organizations that worked to establish CDPAP.  Beginning in 1990, CDR volunteers spent three years writing a 200-page policy report, titled Early to Bed/Late to Rise.  That report was published in 1993 and called on the state to expand the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program statewide.

Here is a link to the CDR report.

The work of those CDR volunteers served as the centerpiece of the campaign that – in a single legislative session – culminated in Governor Pataki signing legislation into law mandating that CDPAP be available statewide.

“It is unconscionable that Governor Hochul and Speaker Heastie want to take the program away from the people with disabilities who created it,” said Bruce Darling, President/CEO of CDR.  “Independent Living Centers that provide CDPAP are more than fiscal entities, we are community centers and hubs for Disability justice advocacy.  Our advocates fight for Disability Rights and so much more.  In 2017, CDR played a significant part of the advocacy that saved Obamacare, and now NYS Democratic Leadership – including Speaker Heastie and Governor Hochul – are trying to put us out of business.”

Tammy Papperman, CDR Director of CDPAP, added, “Defunding our centers is an attack on the fight for Disability Freedom in the same way that defunding Planned Parenthood is an assault on advocates for reproductive justice.  The big difference is that Democrats are leading the attack on Disabled people.  They should know better.  Regardless of whether they know better, their actions are based in pure ableism.”

Finally, CDR understands that the Hochul administration intends to contract with PPL, Inc. as the sole fiscal intermediary for the state. We are deeply concerned about the quality of services that will be provided by PPL under this state-sanctioned monopoly, which eliminates any incentive to provide good customer service. Such concerns are consistent with the experience of Disabled individuals who have been forced to use PPL in other states.

“I’ve been getting my attendant services through PPL in Colorado,” said Dawn Russel, CDR Board Vice Chair, who lives in Colorado. “Frankly, PPL has made my life a nightmare. It’s nearly impossible to hire an attendant. It took me more than six months to get an attendant hired in their system, and after attendants are onboarded, PPL doesn’t pay them in a timely manner. I have watched that company drive other Disabled folks into institutions or go without service. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”

Max Rodriguez is Manager of Government Affairs for the Center for Disability Rights