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Activists slam Mayor's AIDS/HIV care cuts

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 10/25/2012, 12:34 p.m.
Honoring 20 years of providing HIV/AIDS services in Harlem

Another group left out in the cold by Mayor Michael Bloomberg?

The New York City mayor's preliminary budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 wouldn't restore funding for housing, nutrition and prevention services for homeless and low-income people living with HIV/AIDS.

According to VOCAL-NY, a grassroots membership organization led by low-income people living with HIV/AIDS, because the City Council already made one-time restorations in the fiscal year 2012 budget-or because the cuts were enacted through midyear budget modifications-they don't appear in the mayor's preliminary fiscal year 2013 budget. Also, most of the cuts occur within the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA), a division of Human Resources Administration.

One program that Bloomberg wouldn't restore funding to is the HRA's broker's fee payments, which, according to VOCAL-NY, would cost $4.8 million. Cutting broker's fee payments, according to VOCAL-NY, would exacerbate "existing discrimination against HASA clients by private landlords." The mayor's plan would also cut over $1.4 million from HIV prevention programs, $995,000 from the Project Momentum food and nutrition programs (which the City Council made a one-time restoration in the fiscal year 2012 budget for) and $1.25 million in HIV/AIDS rental assistance.

Most of these cuts would take place starting in July 2012. According to VOCAL-NY, the cuts would trigger the loss of state funding that "provides a match for city funding for HASA. This is the fourth straight year Mayor Bloomberg has tried to cut HIV/AIDS housing and nutrition programs."

Over 45,000 New Yorkers who live with HIV/AIDS and their children rely on HASA for housing, health care and nutrition programs.

"Making sure people living with HIV/AIDS have adequate housing and nutrition programs shouldn't be a budget game for Mayor Bloomberg," said VOCAL-NY board member Wayne Starks, who lives in HASA-contracted supportive housing. "While Governor [Andrew] Cuomo is focused on finding health care savings by investing in supportive housing through the Medicaid Redesign Team process, Bloomberg is going in the opposite direction by cutting funds for these programs that keep people out of emergency rooms and nursing homes."

The City Council decided to provide funding through a one-time restoration this year, which included close to $5.1 million for supportive housing and $1 million for Project Momentum.

"After pledging to make fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic a priority during his administration and claiming credit for medical advances that have occurred on his watch, Mayor Bloomberg is ending his time in office by slashing programs that have been the foundation for our city's success," said VOCAL-NY member Bobby Tolbert. "Instead of yet again balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, Bloomberg should be asking Wall Street banks and big corporations to pay their fair share by closing loopholes and ending unearned subsidies. Bloomberg fails to see the big picture."

A statement from Deputy Press Secretary Samantha Levine reads, "By streamlining services and doing more with less, HRA's HASA proposal will ensure that the program continues with minimal impact on our clients. Funded with more than $400 million, HASA provides greater care and support to our residents with clinical symptomatic HIV or AIDS than any other program in any other city in the country."