AIDS Advocates Protest New York City Mayor’s Cuts to Housing, Services for People Living With HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS advocates yesterday rallied at New York's City Hall to protest Mayor Michael Bloomberg's (R) proposed cuts to housing and other services for people living with HIV/AIDS, Long Island Newsday reports. Thirty demonstrators -- chanting "Bloomberg, billionaire! People with AIDS, he don't care!" -- were arrested for disorderly conduct after blocking the entrance to the building. Bloomberg's budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes $18 million in cuts from the HIV/AIDS Services Administration by transferring case management for 30,000 people to community-based organizations. Bloomberg is also calling for a 10% decrease in housing benefits for 4,000 people with AIDS, Newsday reports (Ramirez, Long Island Newsday, 5/14). He also is seeking to transfer the Mayor's Office on AIDS Policy Coordination and the city's HIV Planning Council to the Department of Health. The planning council, which is made up of 45 community AIDS workers and advocates, currently has control over how the city's more than $100 million a year in federal AIDS funds should be spent. Although the council is overseen by the Mayor's Office on AIDS, it has its own staff and operates independently. City officials said that merging the two groups into a new Commission on HIV/AIDS under the health department would save the city an estimated $1 million and is part of $600 million in citywide cuts (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/29).
Advocates said the proposed cuts could lead to more HIV-positive people becoming homeless, adding that the transfer of the Mayor's Office on AIDS Policy Coordination and the city's HIV Planning Council to the health department would "make it harder for [the city] to keep track of how funds are spent," according to Newsday. Charles King, co-president of Housing Works, a not-for-profit community-based organization, said that Bloomberg "doesn't have a clue what it's like to be on the streets living with AIDS and HIV" (Long Island Newsday, 5/14). Housing Works, which provides housing, health and job services to homeless people with HIV and AIDS, has a "long history" of holding rallies and "other confrontations," the New York Daily News reports (Lombardi, New York Daily News, 5/15). Joe Pressley, executive director of the New York AIDS Coalition, said that Bloomberg had told community leaders two months ago that case management services "were secure," according to Newsday. "The mayor basically lied to our community. ... We're not going to take these changes lying down," Pressley said, but he added, "We are saying to the administration 'talk to us.' We are willing to have a conversation. Let us know what's going on. We are the experts" (Long Island Newsday, 5/14).
In related news, New York Gov. George Pataki (R) yesterday vetoed 119 pieces of spending and tax legislation, including legislation that would allocate more than $30 million to HIV/AIDS programs, the Albany Times-Union reports (Benjamin, Albany Times Union, 5/15). Nine of Pataki's vetoes affect HIV/AIDS programs, according to a Housing Works release. Pataki vetoed $25.7 million in funds for cost-of-living adjustments for more than 60,000 elderly, blind and disabled, including AIDS patients, who receive supplemental security income from the government. In addition, the governor vetoed restored funding for community-based AIDS services and funding to combat the disease in minority communities throughout the state, among other HIV/AIDS programs (Housing Works release, 5/14). New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R) said that they plan to override the vetoes today, the New York Daily News reports. The lawmakers said that both chambers have the two-thirds majority necessary to override Pataki's vetoes (Mahoney, New York Daily News, 5/15). The lawmakers said they would finish the process by the end of the week (Housing Works release, 5/14).