Posts Tagged ‘advocacy’

Last Day to Request An Absentee Ballot

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

TODAY is the last day to request an absentee/mail-in ballot in New York State. For more information, visit the NYS Voter Registration website.

Advocate With Gov Cuomo for Harm Reduction Services

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Overdose, Hepatitis C, and HIV rates are climbing in New York State.
Do you have one minute to advocate for harm reduction services for people who use drugs?

Call the Governor and advocate!

Governor Cuomo’s Office: 518-474-8390

Use this handy phone script:

“Hello,
My name is _____________ and I’m calling from (part of the state you’re calling from) to talk to Gov. Cuomo about the overdose crisis and COVID-19. The current pandemic has worsened the overdose crisis, putting people who use drugs at risk across our state. The programs that provide services to them are losing. People are being arrested for carrying syringes and lifesaving medication like buprenorphine. New York law that criminalizes syringe possession and buprenorphine goes against public health, and can cause sharing or reusing of syringes. This will lead to increases in HIV and Hepatitis C infection.

Due to the Department of Health’s syringe shortage and fiscal issues, we are in a more urgent situation than ever before. Syringe service programs across the state do not have needed supplies, meaning people are carrying equipment longer, putting them at risk of arrest. Not only will decriminalizing syringes reduce unnecessary arrests, it will also reduce the amount of syringes that get unsafely discarded in our communities. Lifting Expanded Syringe Access Program (ESAP) limits at pharmacies will ensure people have access to what they need.

Governor Cuomo can and must act now. We need him to decriminalize syringes and buprenorphine, lift ESAP limits at pharmacies, and stop withholding harm reduction funds. *Optional: add in related personal experience*
Thank you for your time.”

NYS Withholding Payments to HVCS: Substance Use Programs Could Be Impacted

Friday, July 31st, 2020

Gotham Gazette reported on New York State’s withholding of payments on contractual services already provided by HVCS and its potential impact on programs and staffing. HVCS is not the only nonprofit facing this dilemma by far. Thanks to Gotham Gazette for covering this issue.

“With the pandemic blowing a hole in the economy and leading to a drastic drop in state tax revenue, budget officials have for months been withholding payments for state contracts to manage cash flows. Among the victims of that fiscal approach are substance use treatment providers who are being forced to cut already-limited services and consider staff layoffs and furloughs, which they say will likely lead to a sharp increase in overdoses and new disease outbreaks around the state.”

Read the full article here.

HVCS In The News: Funding Freeze Puts Squeeze on New York Providers of Social Services

Friday, June 12th, 2020

From the Wall Street Journal. View the original article here (paid subscription may be required)

Money is running out to help AIDS patients pay rents; schools are also on edge

Members of the New York City Department of Probation distributed food at a Bronx pantry in late April.

By Jimmy Vielkind

ALBANY, N.Y.—Social service providers say they are struggling as New York’s state government withholds grant payments in response to the novel coronavirus crisis.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget division froze payments to municipalities and nonprofit agencies, and withheld scheduled raises to some workers in April after revenues crashed as a result of the pandemic.

State revenues are $13.3 billion below expectations, according to the most recent estimate. The state has held up nearly $4 billion of payments, as the Democratic governor pushes Congress for more aid. The state also borrowed $1 billion last month to help it remain solvent until income tax payments, which were previously due in April, start arriving in July. Officials plan to borrow an additional $3.5 billion this week.

As the state holds on to cash, some providers said they are contemplating layoffs and other measures. ACR Health, a Syracuse-based nonprofit that services AIDS patients and others throughout central New York, relies on state grants for almost 88% of its $12 million annual budget, Executive Director Wil Murtaugh said.

Mr. Murtaugh said his group is owed more than $1 million for services that were performed. As a result, ACR has been unable to make rental assistance payments for 221 HIV-positive people in private facilities.

“I don’t think it’s smart to have immunocompromised people be homeless,” Mr. Murtaugh said in an interview. Mr. Cuomo, through an executive order, has put a moratorium on evictions through Aug. 20.

The U.S. House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, last month approved $1 trillion in additional aid for state and local governments, including $35 billion for New York, as part of a $3 trillion economic relief package.

Republicans who control the Senate, however, are skeptical about sending money to states for expenses they see as unrelated to the pandemic. The Senate is expected to approve another relief bill by the beginning of August, with the size and scope of more assistance to states and municipalities set to be one of the central areas of contention between the parties.

ACR Health is part of a network of New York agencies created in the 1980s in response to the AIDS epidemic. Their mandate has subsequently expanded, said Andrea Straus, executive director of Hudson Valley Community Services Inc.

Her organization has 11 different state contracts that support the work of 71 of the organization’s employees. Ms. Straus said a loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program has helped her organization avoid layoffs, but it will re-evaluate the situation this summer.

“Our staff are essential, but they’re not going to get paid? It seems so counterintuitive,” Ms. Straus said. “They owe us $908,634.40. And there’s about another $400,000 for May.”

Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the state Budget Division, said the payment delays could translate into permanent reductions of 20%. “This is exactly why we have been calling on the federal government to provide the resources states need—without federal action, the most vulnerable among us will suffer,” he said.

School districts and municipalities are also on edge. The state was due to release $247 million of aid to Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse on June 25, but Budget Director Robert Mujica previously told The Wall Street Journal that the grants wouldn’t be released without federal action.

“Uncertainty abounds,” said Peter Baynes, executive director of the New York State Conference of Mayors, which represents city and village leaders.

New York officials did provide clarity this week for road contractors when they allocated $544 million that will be sent to municipalities for paving. Frank Suits Jr., president of the Suit-Kote construction firm based in Cortland, N.Y., said he was preparing to lay off hundreds of workers who normally spend the summer working on road projects. He has now scrapped those plans.

Wyoming County High Superintendent Todd Gadd said even though money isn’t expected until later in the year, municipalities will now execute contracts and fix roads during New York’s limited summer construction season. The state warned, though, that the allocations could be reduced by 20%.

“It’s good we can get projects started, but there’s still that potential cut looming,” Mr. Gadd said.

For other organizations, the payment delays are closer to an annoyance than a cataclysm. Food Pantries for the Capital District, which helps transport food and supplies to 65 pantries in the Albany area, last year received a $15,000 state grant to fund the operation of an additional delivery truck.

Natasha Pernicka, the organization’s executive director, said the state is supposed to reimburse it $970 a month for lease payments. The group has had to eat the cost.

“A lot of organizations don’t have flexibility, and their cash flows are very tenuous,” Ms. Pernicka said. “The intention of donors right now is to pay for Covid response—not because we’re waiting for state payments to come through.”

 

 

HVCS’ Position On Proposed Changes To Immigration Eligibility Rules

Friday, November 30th, 2018

YOUR ACTIONS AND OPINIONS ARE NEEDED BY DECEMBER 10, 2018

This summer, the US Department of Homeland Security proposed changes to the rules that determine what makes an immigrant eligible for a permanent visa or citizenship. There were preexisting rules which stated that immigrants applying for admission were not, are not and will not be a “public charge,” that is, a burden on society—measured by their usage (or not) of public benefits and aid programs. These newly proposed changes will expand the list of public benefits which will disqualify immigrants from successfully establishing permanent residence.

A summary of the new rule reads: “Aliens who seek adjustment of status or a visa, or who are applicants for admission, must establish that they are not likely at any time to become a public charge…Moreover, DHS proposes to require all aliens seeking an extension of stay or change of status to demonstrate that they have not received, are not currently receiving, nor are likely to receive, public benefits as defined in the proposed rule.”

Hudson Valley Community Services condemns the expansion of these disqualification rules. Receipt of public benefits, including food stamps, housing subsidies and/or Medicaid, should not be a determining factor in establishing US citizenship because it is blatantly discriminatory to populations who are already vulnerable, disenfranchised and financially bereft. The proposed rule discriminates against poor people from developing nations and thus favors wealthier, more advantaged immigrants from industrialized nations. At their roots, these proposed regulations are abhorrently racist.

The people that will be disqualified from citizenship under this policy are our clients. We know this because we have worked with poor, disenfranchised and marginalized communities since our founding. Plus, the New England Journal of Medicine recently found that 19 percent of noncitizen adults use Medicaid, and 38 percent of their children are either on Medicaid or CHIP. We have worked with hundreds of immigrants, many undocumented, because we are a resource of last resort. As a private non-profit organization, not only do we have the flexibility to open our doors to anyone, but serving these communities is our mission. We serve as intermediaries to connect anyone who needs help to all available services; we not only educate them on what’s available, but we also help people navigate the often complex processes for signing up for SNAP benefits, housing subsidies, and Medicaid. We fight for the health and wellbeing of everyone and anyone who lives in the Hudson Valley, regardless of immigration status—because we see them as fellow humans.

The undocumented clients who come to us are mostly from Latin American countries and arrive here without a common language, fleeing violence, oppression and dangerous conditions in their home country, and have a genuine, sincere interest in establishing fully productive, lawful lives here in America. None of our clients want to receive public benefits—they would rather not have to turn to us. It is simply not true that people who seek public assistance are merely lazy, don’t want to work, and are clamoring to enroll. That is not the reality that we experience out there in low-income neighborhoods. Our staff have to work very hard to educate and enroll people in programs like SNAP and Medicaid because people often don’t want to admit that they need temporary help. That reluctance to speak up will only grow if the DHS changes are implemented—which seems to be the true desire of this heartless and discriminatory proposal.

This proposal will, if implemented, deter those who desperately need assistance with meeting their daily and healthcare needs. It has already had a chilling effect on the undocumented among us and even legal immigrants. Both groups are already avoiding public programs like CHIP (which is exempted from the final rule) and this has negative ripple effects on the healthcare market as a whole. Experts also warn that it will negatively impact large public health concerns, for things as far-reaching as the upcoming flu season. If immigrants are reluctant to access healthcare and get flu shots, we will all be at greater risk for the flu—which means there will be more flu cases and carriers. This circumstance could be replicated in other public health concerns, including HIV/AIDS, hunger, and substance abuse.

DHS’ changes will compromise children’s health, nutrition and development; impact access to health care for legal immigrants and citizens alike; reduce housing options; and negatively affect our local economies. Incentivizing certain communities to remain silent about domestic violence, hunger, public health dangers, addiction disorders, infectious diseases, social injustice, gun and gang violence harms the entire Hudson Valley and all Americans.

Hudson Valley Community Services urges all concerned citizens to log a public comment on the DHS website before December 10, 2018 speaking out against the proposed changes to the nations immigration policy: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/10/10/2018-21106/inadmissibility-on-public-charge-grounds

Please lend your voice and opinion on this issue by visiting the link above and lodging an original, personalized comment. Though it would be easier to “cut and paste” a response, the Federal Register only counts original comments (comments using the exact same words are counted as one comment, regardless of the number of comments). You have until December 10th to make your voice heard.

We also urge Federal, state and local lawmakers to lend their voice in opposition to this dehumanizing and marginalizing proposal that weakens our social fabric and American values.
A wide array of organizations and groups share our perspective on these damaging regulatory changes. If you would like more resources and information, please call (914) 785-8326 and we will be glad to share those with you.

HVCS Joins HIV/AIDS Orgs in Condemning Efforts to Downplay Transgender, Diversity at CDC

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Hudson Valley Community Services joins other HIV/AIDS organizations in condemning efforts to ban or otherwise avoid seven key words and phrases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and in the process, erase the transgender community and diversity.

On Monday, December 18, 2017, five of the nation’s leading organizations focused on ending the HIV and STD epidemics in the United States – AIDS United, NASTAD, the National Coalition of STD Directors, NMAC and The AIDS Institute – expressed alarm over reports that the Trump Administration barred staff at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) from using certain words in its FY2019 budget justification to Congress. Hudson Valley Community Services stands with them in opposition to this development.

It is now being reported that top officials merely suggested that the CDC avoid using the words as a technique to help secure Republican approval of the 2019 budget. Either way, we cannot do justice to all communities–especially those at the highest risk for HIV–by pandering to those squeamish of diversity.

The five organizations released a joint press release, stating: “While we continue to be in contact with the Administration, CDC, and other agencies regarding these reports, restrictions on these terms, in any manner, demonstrate this Administration’s troubling lack of commitment to science and we are seeking further clarification. Thanks to bipartisan support in Congress and the Executive Branch we have made incredible progress against HIV over the last decade. But budget proposals delineate policy priorities, and in rejecting science and evidence along with other commonly understood health language, this Administration calls into question its commitment to science and the health of all communities, including racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities.

“Discouraging use and reference to “evidence-based” or “science-based,” is concerning enough. However, any attempt to remove “transgender” and “diversity” from CDC vocabulary would represent an outright dereliction of the stated duties of the agency. Such efforts are unacceptable and cannot go unanswered. Transgender people and people of color live under constant threat of systemic and specific discrimination and violence. Erasing them from official CDC documents ensures ongoing discrimination and undermines the ability of CDC to effectively respond to their health needs.

“Evidence suggests the transgender community is particularly vulnerable to HIV and STDs. As citizens and residents of this nation, they should be treated with fairness and respect. As human beings, they are entitled to dignity and affirming care.”

HVCS joins AIDS United, NASTAD, NCSD, NMAC, and The AIDS Institute in their pledge to remain committed to ensuring that diversity is celebrated by our public health system and that its work is rooted in science, not politics. We stand with transgender staff, constituents, clients, and family, and will not relent in our demands that their health and the health of all marginalized and minority communities be prioritized by this Administration and the U.S. government.

Read their press release here.

More info:
AIDS United (AU), NASTAD, the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), NMAC, and The AIDS Institute (TAI) are national non-partisan, non-profit organizations focused on ending HIV in the U.S. They have been working in partnership to identify and share resources to sustain successes and progress we have made in HIV and STD prevention, care and treatment in the United States.

Send an email to your local reps in Albany and advocate for ARCS!

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

It’s time to make your voice heard and tell Albany not to balance the budget on the backs of those with HIV! The state Senate and Assembly are drafting the 2010-11 budget this month, and they need to hear from YOU. We’ve created a short letter for you to copy and mail, or click on the handy links to send an email to your representative in the Assembly or Senate.

Copy and paste this letter to mail your Senator. Don’t know your Senator or their address? Visit this page to search by zip code.

Dear Senator:

As New York State finalizes its 2010/11 budget, I am writing to urge you to advocate with Senate Leadership to restore funding for the Community Service Providers (CSPs) and Multi-Service Agencies (MSAs) that provide HIV/AIDS services across the entire state. Funding levels must be restored to the enacted budget levels for 2009/10, prior to the Deficit Reduction Plan cuts and prior to the additional cuts proposed by the Governor.

The stability of AIDS-Related Community Services, the CSP serving the Hudson Valley, has been seriously undermined. These cuts to its basic infrastructure threaten its ability to continue to provide services to the thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS across NYS. ARCS’ state funding has been cut over 30 percent in the past two years and they have had to dismantle many critical programs with proven records of success at caring for those with HIV and preventing the spread of HIV. Clearly, ARCS and the people living with HIV/AIDS have had to bear a disproportionate share of the state’s budget cuts.

When you are involved in budget discussions this month, please fight to restore CSP/MSA funding to ‘09/’10 enacted budget levels and to prevent further cuts to HIV/AIDS services. Thank you for your time and consideration.

To send an email, click on the links below:

Andrea Stewart-Cousins

scousins@senate.state.ny.us

Ruth Hassell-Thompson

hassellt@senate.state.ny.us

Suzi Oppenheimer

oppenhei@senate.state.ny.us

Thomas Morahan

morahan@senate.state.ny.us

William J. Larkin, Jr.

larkin@senate.state.ny.us

Vincent Leibell

leibell@senate.state.ny.us

Stephen Saland

saland@senate.state.ny.us

John J. Bonacic

bonacic@senate.state.ny.us

Copy and paste this letter to mail your Assemblymember. Don’t know your Assemblymember or their address? Visit this page to search by zip code.

Dear Assemblymember:

As New York State finalizes its 2010/11 budget, I am writing to urge you to advocate with Assembly leaders to restore funding for the Community Service Providers (CSPs) and Multi-Service Agencies (MSAs) that provide HIV/AIDS services across the entire state. Funding levels must be restored to the enacted budget levels for 2009/10, prior to the Deficit Reduction Plan cuts and prior to the additional cuts proposed by the Governor.

The stability of AIDS-Related Community Services, the CSP serving the Hudson Valley, has been seriously undermined. These cuts to its basic infrastructure threaten its ability to continue to provide services to the thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS across NYS. ARCS’ state funding has been cut over 30 percent in the past two years and they have had to dismantle many critical programs with proven records of success at caring for those with HIV and preventing the spread of HIV. Clearly, ARCS and the people living with HIV/AIDS have had to bear a disproportionate share of the state’s budget cuts.

When you are involved in budget discussions this month, please fight to restore CSP/MSA funding to ‘09/’10 enacted budget levels and to prevent further cuts to HIV/AIDS services. Thank you for your time and consideration.

To send an email, click on the links below:

J. Gary Pretlow

pretloj@assembly.state.ny.us

Amy Paulin

paulina@assembly.state.ny.us

Robert J. Castelli

castellir@assembly.state.ny.us

Sandra Galef

galefs@assembly.state.ny.us

George Latimer

latimeg@assembly.state.ny.us

Richard Brodsky

brodskr@assembly.state.ny.us

Mike Spano

spanom@assembly.state.ny.us

Kenneth Zebrowski, Jr.

zebrowskik@assembly.state.ny.us

Ellen Jaffee

jaffeee@assembly.state.ny.us

Nancy Calhoun

calhoun@assembly.state.ny.us

Annie Rabbitt

rabbita@assembly.state.ny.us

Aileen Gunther

gunthea@assembly.state.ny.us

Greg Ball

ballg@assembly.state.ny.us

Frank Skartados

skartadosf@assembly.state.ny.us

Kevin Cahill

cahillk@assembly.state.ny.us

Joel Miller

millerj@assembly.state.ny.us

Marcus Molinaro

molinarom@assembly.state.ny.us