Advocacy News


****Special Advocacy Alert****

Our direct support workers need your help in this year’s State budget. Support the Assembly’s 2% increase.


Please call and tell your legislators to approve the Assembly’s 2% increase for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) in the State's FINAL BUDGET.  Please tell them that DSPs have gone 4 years without an increase, over the past 4 years DSPs have lost 8% to inflation; a wage cut; and protecting our most vulnerable citizens depends on them. While the Assembly put a 2% increase in for nonprofits to enhance pay for DSPs, the Senate position continues to be vague.


  • Co-Majority Leader Senator Jeff Klein 518-455-3595
  • Co-Majority Leader Senator Dean Skelos  518-455-3171
  • Senate switchboard. Ask for your senator 518-455-2800

They head home tomorrow PM. Continue to call them through the weekend at their district offices.  For contact info. go to “Find my Senator” on the Senate home page. Enter your address and hit submit .

Also, definitely don’t let your Assemblyperson feel left out.

  • The really important bills should pass by a week from Monday, the March 31st  budget deadline.
  • While the Assembly put a 2% increase in for nonprofits to enhance pay for DSPs, the Senate position continues to be vague.


Here is the link to send your message to Senator James Seward:

You may contact Assemblyman Lopez by emailing him at:


We Need Your Help! Please help us reach out to our legislators and voice your concern, TODAY by signing our petition to SAVE OUR WORKSHOP !


New York State recently announced that effective July 1, 2013; no new people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities will receive funding for employment in sheltered workshops also know as skill development centers.  This means that a student transitioning out of high school with a disability cannot pursue employment and a paycheck in this vocational setting.  Sadly, this directive is coming from the federal government with pressures being exerted upon New York by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Beyond July 2013, New York is required by CMS to create a workshop closure plan by October 1, 2013.  Ultimately, that plan could end this employment option in the entire state and risk the loss of 8,000 jobs that are regulated by Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Family members and people working in Toe Path Industries, a sheltered work center operated by the Schoharie County ARC, are worried about what people will do if this vocational option of choice is eliminated.  The Schoharie-based workshop employs 68 people who are learning new skills through meaningful work opportunities in a safe and accessible environment while contributing and earning a paycheck for real work.   Moreover, Schoharie County ARC’s vocational services program supports 83 people who desire community competitive employment through our supportive employment program and business partnerships.  Whether employed by the sheltered workshop or through thesupported employment program, a job creates a sense of dignity and pride for people to have a place to go to work and contribute to the community.

“I’m sad (about potential for the workshop closure).  I’ve been here for 40 years and that’s a long time. I’ve done an awful lot of work in that time,” says Robert Gedney, an employee at Toe Path Industries for nearly 40 years.

“There are all kinds of work in the workshop that I LIKE to do and I enjoy doing it.,” Robert said as he worked on a contract for hunting bags.

For Robert, an opportunity to earn a paycheck in the Work Center, provides opportunities for Robert to enjoy Saturday outings at the local diner for lunch and a trip to the store to purchase Country-Music Cd’s.

“I know a lot of people love the money, so that they can spend it on something they enjoy doing,” he added.

“We recognize that work is a valued activity for the individual and society.  We support a full array of community based employment opportunities.  And most importantly, we believe that individuals must have the opportunity to make informed decisions that should also include the right to work in a skill development center (sheltered workshops), as well as supportive employment,” said Tony Alvarez, Executive Director for the Schoharie County ARC.

With crossed fingers, Robert added, “I hope, we can keep this workshop open. At the end of the day when I go home after work, I feel wonderful. I feel good. It makes me feel so good to come here.”



SCHOHARIE – In February of this year, over 100 people plunged into the frigid Upper Rhoda Pond in Copake during a winter awareness event for the 5th Annual COARC Polar Plunge. Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R,C,I-Schoharie) was one of the participants who braved the ice-cold water to promote a good cause for the community. After his cold plunge into the pond however, Assemblyman Lopez was hit with another splash of cold reality: Governor Andrew Cuomo was proposing and cut $90 million from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) in the state budget. This set the stage for a looming budget battle and a race to restore the funding before any damage could be done.


Following the enactment of the state budget, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Assemblyman Pete Lopez, along with persons with developmental disabilities, related organizations and their families strongly advocated for a full restoration of the controversial cut. As the end of the legislative session approached, advocacy intensified and 146 of 147 Assembly members signed on to sponsor the legislation. During the waning days of this year’s legislative session, it was revealed that the governor agreed to the restoration and both houses of the State Legislature voted on the measure before adjourning.


Then on Friday, September 27, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Assembly bill A.6692-C (S. 4777-D) into law, authorizing the $90 million restoration to OPWDD.


“This is great news for the OPWDD, for all of our local ARC organizations, and most importantly, to the individuals who are facing the challenge of living with developmental disabilities and their families,” said Assemblyman Pete Lopez, a sponsor on the (now) law. “The benefits of this restoration will go to providing the staff and services needed for the most vulnerable in our society. I am always vested in their mission and determined to keep advocating on their behalf.”


Patricia Kennedy, the Chief Executive Officer at Springbrook, an organization supporting over 850 individuals with special needs in Oneonta, said, “Springbrook’s staff and board are very happy with the leadership displayed by Assemblyman Peter Lopez in the restoration of cuts to programs that serve individuals with developmental disabilities. His advocacy not only supports our most vulnerable citizens, but maintains jobs so important to the local economy.”


Anthony Alvarez, the Executive Director of Schoharie County ARC, said, “The Schoharie County ARC commends Assemblyman Lopez for his unwavering support and seeing this restoration to fruition. This legislation was an overwhelming victory that curtailed devastating cuts to funding crucial services to people with developmental disabilities. Passage of this bill would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of families, consumers, self-advocates, provider organization and the leadership of our legislative representatives. Pete Lopez was at the forefront of protecting his constituents in making certain that their vital supports would neither be impaired nor diminished.”


Kenneth Stall, Executive Director for COARC said, “The signing of this $90 million restoration into law is a great benefit to our field and the work that we do for our communities. This law will guarantee and prevent any future budget cuts from impacting our local budgets here at COARC in the event that the targeted savings established by the legislation and work group are not realized. We certainly appreciate and commend Assemblyman Lopez for all his help in seeing this restoration through to fruition.”


John McHugh, Executive Director of Ulster-Greene ARC said, “If we take into consideration the fact that we have not received a trend or cost of living increase in three years, and add that to the reimbursement reductions that we incurred in 2011, a 4.5 percent cut to our budget would have turned out to be more like an 8 to 9 percent reduction in real dollars. Gas prices for our vehicles have increased, the cost of electricity to our homes and programs have gone up and the expense of health insurance continues to climb.”


“Ulster-Greene ARC is sincerely thankful for Assemblyman Lopez and our other elected representatives who supported this critical legislation,” said McHugh.