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Boro programs for disabled brace for state budget cuts

Queens Center for Progress Executive Director Charles Houston (l.) is joined by event sponsor Tai Wang, of WAC Lighting (r.), at the organization's gala earlier this year. Photo courtesy Queens Center for Progress/Dominic Totino Photography
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Funding cuts for nonprofits that serve people with developmental disabilities will likely result in some drawing back of services, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s insistence that the cuts should only affect administrative overhead, the director of the Queens Center for Progress said Tuesday.

“There just isn’t that much administrative money,” said Charles Houston, the organization’s executive director. “It’s going to have to affect services.”

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

The state budget cuts 4.5 percent to Medicaid funding paid to nonprofit service providers that serve people with developmental disabilities. The cuts are intended to help the state pay back the federal government for years of overcharging, although Houston said that extra money had benefited the state and not nonprofit providers, the targets of the cuts.

Houston said it is not yet clear what form the cuts, which amount to $1.2 million for QCP, will take. He said QCP and other groups are waiting on discussions between provider association heads and the commissioner and commissioner’s advisory council of the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to produce a plan.

He said the discussions have looked at cutting items such as executive compensation, operational surpluses and fund balances.

But he said nonprofit service providers have taken such deep slashes in funding in the past few years that there is little that remains that could be trimmed.

He said QCP is looking at options such as not filling open positions, staff furloughs and reducing vacation time.

“But even if we did all of that, it still would not make up the total amount,” he said, saying the difference would have to be made up in reductions of services.

Houston said whatever way the state decides the cuts will be administered, they will be retroactive. Thus, he said, QCP is instituting a hiring freeze for most positions and he is keeping his fingers crossed that there will be a decision soon.

“The longer they wait the steeper we’re going to have to cut,” he said.

He also contended the cuts have unfairly been levied against nonprofit organizations, while state-operated programs for people with developmental disabilities have been left alone.

He said the rationale for leaving the state programs untouched was that a number of upstate centers had been closed down, saving the state some money. But he said that reduction in costs does not equal the severe cuts that nonprofits will take.

The cuts drew the ire of many state legislators, who had tried to completely restore the funding in the final budget but were unsuccessful.

“There really was widespread and strong disagreement with this element of his budget,” Houston said.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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