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Statewide Advocates Celebrate 30th “Birthday” of Disability Advocacy Program, Calling for Renewed Investment

For Immediate Release

January 29, 2013

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Contact:            

Kristin Brown -- (518) 462-6831 x 107

Kate Whalen -- (646) 442-3654

 

January 29, 2013 Albany, NY— Members of DAPWorks, a  statewide campaign led by Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) advocates and members of the New York State Senate and Assembly,  gathered today at the State Capitol in Albany to celebrate three decades of successful advocacy on behalf of low income disabled New Yorkers in need of financial support.  Lauding over $1 billion brought into the state by the program during that time, and 208,000 clients served, speakers urged an additional $2.24 million investment above the $4.76 million included in the Executive Budget to allow them to assist more people.

Through the NYS Disability Advocacy Program (DAP), advocates in every New York county provide low-income disabled New Yorkers with legal representation when their federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD) applications have been denied or benefits terminated. DAP clients are among New York’s most severely disabled adults and children—many are mentally ill or homebound and cannot stabilize their lives without DAP’s support.

A nationally recognized social services model, DAP returns much MORE to NYS than it costs.  When DAP advocates are successful, the federal government pays the state and counties back for any welfare benefits provided to clients – to the tune of $205 million over the life of the program.  In addition clients receive direct payments to spend on essential needs – stimulating core economic activity at the local level in the form of rent payments, food and clothing purchases and other daily expenditures.  This local stimulus totals over $700M. And finally, over $270 million has been saved by the state and localities by no longer having to provide welfare benefits to folks who are moved onto more appropriate federal assistance. All this for a 30 year investment of $130 million.

Unfortunately, DAP has received drastic cuts in recent years, which has eroded its ability to leverage the federal dollars and subsequent savings here in New York. The majority of DAP clients are referred to DAP providers by state or locally-funded public assistance programs and departments of social services. But due to funding limitations, providers are collectively turning away thousands of eligible New Yorkers every year and therefore causing New York State to lose critical services and payments. This year, to allow DAP to continue to yield savings for New York State, and to avoid serious service reductions, advocates are calling on lawmakers to increase DAP funding to $7M, $2.24 million over what was included in the Executive Budget.

To honor the history of the program, the advocates of DAPWorks will recognize Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried (75th Dist.), Chair of the Committee on Health, who sponsored the original legislation that created DAP in 1983.  “DAP makes a real difference in the lives of disabled New Yorkers,” he said.  “It provides disabled New Yorkers with steady sources of income they are legally entitled to, and generates $6 in savings and federal payments for every dollar we spend.”

Senator Malcolm A. Smith (14th Dist.) said, “As the new Chair of the Social Services Committee, I believe it is critically important that we make sure our disabled citizens are supported with their housing, health care and stable income they needs. I look forward to working to assure that this remains a priority in the State Budget.”

According to State Senator Neil D. Breslin (44th Dist.), “It is critical that we invest in New York’s Disability Advocacy Program (DAP).  DAP is a nationally recognized program that not only helps local advocates provide low-income disabled New Yorkers in every county to with legal assistance when their federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD) applications have been denied or benefits terminated, it also generates as much as $6 for every $1 invested.  DAP is a sound investment for New York State and one which must be made.”

Assembly Member David F. Gantt (137th Dist.) stated, “The Disability Advocacy Program is a great resource for low-income disabled constituents. By working with DAP advocates, these individuals are able to secure federal disability benefits, which helps stabilize their financial situation and that of their families. An investment in DAP is an investment in disabled New Yorkers.”

“Fully funding the New York State Disability Advocacy Program is a common-sense measure that will help some of New York’s most vulnerable citizens and the State’s financial bottom-line at the same time," Senate Minority Whip Jose Peralta (13th Dist.) said. "Providing legal services for New York’s most severely disabled adults and children would be the right thing to do under any circumstances. When the increased federal funding and decreased state social services costs are considered, it is simply a no-brainer."

Anne Erickson, President & CEO, Empire Justice Center, which provides training and technical assistance to DAP advocates around the state,  stated “How incredible is it that 30 years ago this year, the legislature, led by Assembly member Gottfried, had the foresight to create the DAP program. He and his colleagues recognized that not only did low income disabled people need an advocate to successfully access the federal disability benefits they needed, but that that advocacy would also benefit our state and local governments.  30 years, over 208,000 clients and over a billion dollars later, we are still going strong.”

Raun Rasmussen, Executive Director of Legal Services NYC, the largest provider of disability advocacy services in New York City, noted that “During such critical times for funding social and legal services, New York should not leave money on the table. DAP connects severely disabled New Yorkers with the services and income they need to stabilize their lives—while saving the State and local governments money and generating critically needed funds for local economies.”

From Barbara Finkelstein, CEO of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley: “Over the years I have received many thanks from disabled individuals who Legal Services of the Hudson Valley assisted in obtaining Social Security benefits- Clients have expressed not only thanks but have indicated that the receipt of these benefits have enabled them to stay in their homes, remain living in New York State and receive the medical coverage they desperately need.”

“The DAP program has consistently generated a far greater Return on Investment for State and local government than what they have spent, despite the erosion of funding over the last years,” said Yisroel Schulman, President of the New York Legal Assistance Group. “It is time to reverse that trend and increase NY DAP funding, which is crucial to providing a stable income to severely disabled individuals and families - and a no brainer for the State, which stands to see an even greater return on benefits paid out to disabled individuals.”

 

 

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