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Dear friends,

It is the first day of October, which is also the first day of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This year’s NDEAM takes on a special significance because we are marking the 75th anniversary of NDEAM and the 30th anniversary of the ADA.

Our economy and community are stronger when they include everyone. Workers with disabilities can and do contribute in every industry. Our goal is to see every adult be competitively employed in workplaces that are truly welcoming.

NDEAM 2020 English web

You may have seen our announcement last week that Starbridge received a five-year, $2.3million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Starbridge will continue to serve as the Parent Training and Information Center (PTIC) for all 55 counties of upstate New York.

PTIC staff provide information and strategies through free workshops and webinars and through personalized support to families and youth striving for educational success. New to this grant cycle is an expanded focus on supporting families whose children face educational barriers based on race, ethnicity, income, native language, family support, and even internet access.

Advocacy Alert: Family Support Services Withholding

Family Support Services (FSS) are delivered across the state through funding from NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). Families who have a loved one with a developmental disability living at home often have additional expenses or barriers that the typical family does not have. The goal of FSS is to help those families by providing aid, enhancing family stability, and preserving family unity.

Because of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic at the federal, state, and local levels, New York State is facing a massive budget shortfall. The NYS Division of Budget (DOB) has pressed all state agencies to implement a reduction (called a "withhold") of 20% for all state aid-funded programs.

At the moment, this may lead to an immediate reduction in or suspension of certain supports and services. Long-term, the concern is that this 20% withhold could become a permanent budget cut.

You have the opportunity to speak up about the importance of FSS for your family and others in our communities. We encourage you to contact your elected representatives to let them know your thoughts about this withhold and what a permanent budget cut might mean for your family.

Here’s how you can reach out to officials in NYS and at the Federal level:

If you are a social media user, we encourage you to post your thoughts about the 20% withhold. Use the hashtag #FSSsavesFamilies so we can start a conversation with the many families, advocacy groups, and organizations also speaking up and speaking out about the need for family supports.

To read more about what OPWDD provides through Family Support Services, click here.

If you wonder how effective this advocacy could be, look back at the 1980s when Family Support Services were cut entirely from the State budget. Families across the state banded together, wrote letters, traveled to Albany, and held rallies around the state. Their advocacy and impact were so effective that not only was the entire budget reinstated, legislation was written that mandated the creation of regional FSS Consumer Councils (made up of families who have young and adult children with I/DD) to design, coordinate and monitor Family Support Services.

That spirit lives on in us to this day, and we are grateful for your partnership in continuing the good work.

Kind regards,

colin garwood signature

P.S. Our annual gala, Among the Stars, is going virtual! Saturday, October 17th, from 6:30-7:30 via Zoom - admission is free. Join us as we celebrate 5 years as Starbridge, honor our Community Award winners, and raise funds to benefit children and adults with disabilities in our community!

Among the Stars 2020 electronic