ALBANY, N.Y. (March 27, 2020) — Health care and education advocates joined together Friday morning calling on Governor Cuomo and State Legislators to protect funding for health and education in the state budget, and increase taxes on millionaires.
Every year, Governor Cuomo and the state legislature sing the same tune: there isn’t enough money to fully fund our schools and provide adequate health services to everyone. This year, amidst the COVID-19 crisis, we cannot sacrifice health services for New Yorkers or our children’s education to make up for declining state revenue. The last time New York faced a financial crisis, Governor Cuomo chose to balance the State budget on the backs of Black, Brown and low-income children — cutting $1 billion from public schools, while giving a tax cut to the ultra-rich. In 2020, the Governor is planning to make drastic health care cuts, balancing the budget on the backs of seniors and the disabled.
We are currently face-to-face with the consequences of chronic underfunding of our healthcare and education systems. Schools are not prepared to transition to remote learning, because they cannot afford technology for every single student. Similarly, the failure to fund our critical safety net hospitals and clinics and address shortages in the community-based long term care system are placing an even greater strain on our healthcare system, and exacerbates the effects of the crisis, particularly among those communities most at risk.
Medicaid pays for critical healthcare funding for the New Yorkers and children that need it, but it is also essential to helping kids learn. It promotes health equity through reimbursements for health services that are offered in schools, including key special education services — programs that are already facing enormous stress and challenges as schools across the state close their doors.
Yet, the number of billionaires and millionaires has grown in New York. Income inequality is now at record levels. As we deal with an unprecedented crisis that is exposing weaknesses in our healthcare system and creating even greater challenges in our schools, the question can no longer be “what services to cut,” but “how to raise revenues to fund the services New Yorkers need?
“New York State cannot ignore its responsibility to provide every child with their constitutional right to a sound basic education. Governor Cuomo has been failing to meet the state’s minimum educational standard for years. Our kids deserve better. They deserve a Governor who is going to invest in the educational needs of all students, not raid their school coffers every time he needs extra cash,” said Jasmine Gripper, Alliance for Quality Education executive director. “New York’s ultra rich can contribute a little more in order to protect children’s health and education.”
“The state has an obligation to provide health care and equitable education to its residents. New York’s Medicaid program provides coverage and access to services for low-income people and people with disabilities,” said Lara Kassel, Medicaid Matters coordinator. Now more than ever, we need a commitment by our leaders in government to protect vital services by asking ultra-wealthy New Yorkers to contribute just a little bit more. It is a matter of moral imperative.”
“I am a parent, grandmother, education activist and public speaker. I watch my communities including myself and my children live through inequity everyday. Whether it is academic or medical, my children and grandson don’t have the same access to academic and medical care that other people do. Now in a pandemic I also have to worry about the impact it will have on my family and my community because I know this will affect services we barely get now,” said Tanesha Grant, New York City parent and grandparent.
“Our society forces disabled people to be poor to get the services they critically need. This means that all too often, disabled kids go to underfunded schools, where their education services are underfunded, to homes where their community Medicaid services are underfunded. When we underfund Medicaid and education, we double down on the injustices to disabled people,” said Bryan O’Malley, executive director of the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of NYS. “Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we ask billionaires and millionaires to pay their fair share so that those New Yorkers most at risk from Coronavirus and these budget cuts have a chance to receive the services critical to let them live in the community.”