State disability cuts not as bad as feared

Five-year-old Ashley Lopez-Payero admires her catch at Queens Center for Progress' Carnival for Developmentally Disabled Children as her Occupational Therapist Sheila Sayeng (c.) and volunteer Karen Archer (r.) look on.
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Fears that state funding cuts to organizations that serve people with developmental disabilities would trigger a sharp rollback in services were allayed last week with the release of a plan showing the direct impact to groups will be far less than originally anticipated.

“We’re all letting out a very deep breath,” said Charles Houston, executive director of the Queens Center for Progress, based in Jamaica Hills, a nonprofit that provides services for people with developmental disabilities.

Houston said the commissioner of the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities distributed a notice to providers last Friday detailing how it will administer $90 million in funding cuts passed in state budget.

The commissioner said in the letter that the direct impact to the nonprofits will only be about $14 million, which includes reduced payments for administrative and other costs.

Houston said the new plan means that most of the feared impacts of the cuts on organizations, such as the rolling back of services or staff layoffs, would not be realized.

“It’s going to be much, much less than what we were worried about,” he said. “We’re very pleased that it turned out this way.”

QCP serves about 80 people with developmental disabilities living in its residential facilities and hundreds of others in its day programs and vocational services with the aim of helping its patients become more independent. It has an adult and a children’s center in Jamaica Hills and another center in Bellerose.

Houston said he thinks the state worked hard to find ways to keep costs from directly hitting services for the disabled after a storm of criticism when Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed through the cuts in the final state budget.

A large portion of the cuts will be recouped through audits of nonprofits, savings amounting to $40 million, Houston said.

But he said he was not sure what the audits would look at, saying that in the past, some groups had been upset with audits that targeted clerical errors, such as when a person would forget to put a signature in one of three places.

“We don’t know yet how rigid they’re going to be,” Houston said.

Houston said the plan released by the commissioner is not yet final and some details have yet to be worked out.

But he said it is likely the broad plan overview is set.

“We would not have received something from the commissioner if this were not fairly solid,” he said.

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

Posted 7:21 pm, April 18, 2013
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