June 2001
View Points 2001 Banner

From the New York State Assembly  Black Square  Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Kevin Cahill, Chair, Task Force on People with Disabilities

The Work and Wellness Act of 2001 will create new opportunities for individuals with disabilities

Other Assembly initiatives will improve accessibility, expand services and benefits, prevent discrimination and strengthen consumer protection laws

The basic right of individuals with disabilities to live independently and with dignity is challenged each day by obstacles to both their physical mobility and their ability to access services.

The Assembly Majority is working to ensure that those with disabilities enjoy the same opportunities readily available to others, and to improve access to the resources that allow everyone to live their lives to the fullest.

The Work and Wellness Act of 2001 enables people with disabilities to work and retain Medicaid coverage

One of the Assembly’s top legislative priorities this year was passage of the Work and Wellness Act of 2001, which will enable individuals with disabilities to accept jobs with wages above the poverty level, while purchasing the health coverage they need through a Medicaid “buy-in” program –– paying premiums on a sliding fee scale based on income.

Many people with disabilities are discouraged from seeking employment because an increase in income would make them ineligible for Medicaid health coverage. Even if they could afford to purchase private health insurance, individually or through an employer, most plans do not cover the costs of long-term personal care or comprehensive prescription drug coverage.

Under the Work and Wellness Act of 2001, people with gross incomes up to approximately $26,000 would pay nothing and still retain their Medicaid benefits. People with a gross income between approximately $30,000 and $68,000 would pay premiums ranging from $275 to $5,500 per year, and persons with income above this amount would pay 100 percent of the premium. The cost of implementing the program would be shared by the federal government under the federal Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, which provides funding for costs associated with an expansion of Medicaid coverage for workers with severe disabilities.

The Work and Wellness Act of 2001 will benefit both those with disabilities and the people of New York State as a whole, allowing individuals with disabilities to receive quality, affordable health care while pursuing meaningful employment in the community.

Last year, New York lost the opportunity to be first in the nation to take advantage of the new federal legislation when the governor and Senate failed to follow the Assembly’s lead in supporting the Work and Wellness Act. The Assembly Majority now calls upon the Senate and the governor to give this important measure the support it deserves.

Assembly measures expand and protect the rights of the disabled

To further protect the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities and help them remain active and independent, the Assembly also passed a legislative package which will:
  • require public and government facilities to make reasonable modifications to accommodate the disabled (A.4707 and A.4885-a);
  • ensure educational materials are available in usable formats to students with disabilities (A.7926);
  • require ATMs to provide audio messages for the blind and visually impaired (A.5797);
  • strengthen the state’s "Wheelchair Lemon Law" by extending warranty protection to all wheelchairs, not just motorized wheelchairs (A.5895);
  • extend tax credits to employers who hire disabled veterans on a part-time basis (A.752); and
  • require access aisles for handicapped parking spaces to be at least 8 feet wide and clearly marked (A.4625-a and A.4626-a).
The Assembly also passed bills that will increase the number of parking spaces for the handicapped at shopping facilities, ensuring the presence of interpreters for the hearing impaired at public meetings and hearings and requiring school bus attendants to receive training related to the special needs of students with disabilities.

Other measures will establish programs to help reimburse those with disabilities who need adaptive equipment to drive, assist families of children suffering from traumatic brain injury and provide services to persons who are deaf, deaf-blind or hearing impaired.

These measures –– passed by the Assembly in recognition of New York State’s 21st annual Legislative Disability Awareness Day in May –– represent an important step in ensuring that every New Yorker has access to the products, services and amenities that make up the fabric of daily life for us all.

NEW SERVICE AVAILABLE: The Assembly Internet Information Service is now available to those interested in receiving timely legislative updates by e-mail. To subscribe to this new service, please drop us a line at signup@assembly.state.ny.us, indicating your area of interest.

(The Assembly Internet Information Service will not release, sell or give away a subscriber’s e-mail address, name or any other information provided without express permission from the subscriber. Each e-mail notice or newsletter will contain simple instructions for removing your name from the mailing list if you decide you no longer wish to subscribe.)

New York State Assembly
[ Welcome Page ] [ Committee Updates ]