Queens Center for Progress worried about proposed cuts

Ashley Lopez-Payero, 5, admires her catch at Queens Center for Progress' Carnival for Developmentally Disabled Children in 2008, as her occupational therapist Sheila Sayeng (c.) and volunteer Karen Archer (r.) look on.
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A Jamaica Hills nonprofit dedicated to helping people with developmental disabilities is worried it may have to lay off some of its staff and scale back its programs if cuts Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed in his budget go into effect.

Charles Houston, executive director of the Queens Center for Progress, at 81-15 164th St., said the proposed cuts could be a blow to his organization and the people they serve.

“It would really be a move backward,” he said.

QCP serves about 80 people living in its residential facilities and hundreds of others in its day programs and vocational services, with the aim of helping people with developmental disabilities become more independent.

But Houston said the organization would stand to lose about $1.75 million out of $29 million reserved for adult services out of its annual budget, at a time when it is still hurting from past budget cuts in the last few years and rising health care costs.

“There’s really no cushion at all to absorb these cuts if they were to go through,” he said.

Thus, if the cuts are passed, QCP may have to lay off about 30 positions out of its 600-person staff. It may also have to scale back many of its programs promoting self-sufficiency, which include teaching patients how to do things like travel or handle money, and volunteer and working opportunities.

And QCP is not alone. Houston said under the proposed cuts all other nonprofits like his across the state would take a hit.

“The number of people who would be affected by this, it’s really huge,” he said.

Cuomo proposed a 6 percent reduction in the reimbursement rate for nonprofits serving people with developmental disabilities as a way to save $120 million in the budget. That comes on top of $350 million in cuts the groups have taken over the last few years.

But it is not certain the cuts will make their way into the final budget. Both the state Senate and state Assembly restored the $120 million in their proposed budgets, Houston said.

Houston said if the funding is not restored, it would mean QCP and other state nonprofits like it would have to revert to a more custodial kind of care for their patients, which harkens back to a time when people with developmental disabilities were kept in institutional settings.

He said there has been a huge effort in recent years to move away from that kind of care by focusing on integrating patients into the community.

“That really benefits everybody,” he said.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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