Albany Legislative Advocacy Trip

Independent Perspective 1734 with Todd Vaarwerk on the priorities of the February Albany Legislative Advocacy Trip.

Host:  Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Todd Vaarwerk, Chief Policy Officer of WNYIL, and I’m your host Ernie Churchwell. Welcome back to the program Todd.

Guest:  Thanks for having me back.

Host:  Our pleasure. While you are our man who knows about everything that is happening in government and so you are the ideal person to tell us about how our advocates hope to make a difference for people with disabilities at the local level, as a result of a trip to Albany in February. What can you tell us about the advocacy day effort?

Guest:  Well, regular listeners will know that once the governor puts out her budget very shortly thereafter, there is what they call lobbying day periods. And while many organizations go to Albany to lobby for the things that are important, we do as well. Our chosen lobby day is February 6, where we'll be taking a small contingent of folks to Albany to advocate about things that are related to independent living and disability inclusion.

Host:  Alright. And you're going to be joined by colleagues from all across the Empire State connected with two different organizations, correct?

Guest:  Yes, that would be the New York Association on Independent Living and the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State. NYAIL and CDPAANYS.

Host:  So all told, they'll probably be a few dozen people pushing the disability agenda would you say?

Guest:  Well from our local community there will probably be a couple of dozen. Statewide we might have, I expect it to be a little smaller than previous years when it was done in person. We could have upwards of 150.

Host:  And this would be the first time in a couple of years when the trip is being made in person because of the pandemic restrictions, I believe.

Guest:  Correct.

Host:  I'm sure listeners will want to know just what some of the things are that are so important, that will take our advocates to Albany to convince their legislators that these are worthy of support. Could you mention some high points?

Guest:  Absolutely. Well, first and foremost, we definitely want to keep the Independent Living network strong. So, we're going to ask that the legislature agree once again with the Board of Regents and bring the statewide funding for the 40 Independent Living Centers to $18 million. We're going to support our friends at CDPAANYS and the Fair Pay for Home Care campaign by asking for continuing investment to bring the wages for home care aides to 150% of the area median income and at the same time supporting direct service professionals for developmentally disabled people to get the four grand per employee per year that they're looking for. We're also looking to expand access to home which is a home modification program for people with disabilities and bring that back to the original $10 million the program started with; surprisingly that program is only funded at $1 million right now. And we're going to be talking about how to restore Medicaid to kind of the pre pandemic operation. Kind of getting rid of some things that they've made changes to that will affect people's ability to be able to get home care and stay in the community and not be at risk to being put into nursing homes.

Host:  So, I gather there have been some additional requirements proposed to allow people to get Medicaid for home care?

Guest:  Right, used to only need one instrumental activity of daily living. Now you need three or two if you happen to have an Alzheimer's or a cognitive impairment, and that could affect some people in our community. So, we want to be able to make sure that the broadest base of people with disabilities get the community help that they desperately need.

Host:  And I don't need to tell our listeners that businesses having trouble getting people are competing for workers so that can complicate getting home care aides. We're running out of time. I'm sure people will have questions. How can they reach you?

Guest:  They can always give my office a call 716-836-0822 extension 101 or email me at

Host:  Thanks so much for being with us, Todd.

Guest:  You're welcome.

Host:  You've been listening to independent perspective of Public Affairs presentation of Western New York independent living. Our guest today has been Todd Vaarwerk, Chief Policy Officer of WNYIL and I've been your host Ernie Churchwell.