A Message from Our CEO: The Extreme Perils Facing the Most Vulnerable

Mar 21, 2017 | | categories: Advocacy

Dear Friends –

After the inauguration, I promised to keep you updated on how changes in federal policy will impact our participants. Last week, a bombshell dropped when Congress released its draft of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Also, the administration released its draft budget. Taken together, these two developments in their present forms would have devastating consequences for our clients.

After reviewing the changes outlined in the proposed AHCA, we are strongly opposed to the current draft and certain direction. The 40,000 New Yorkers we work with every year live on the edge of economic instability, and we know they are not alone. When something unexpected happens – even a small health problem, for example – it can have a disastrous impact.

The AHCA in its current form will reduce health care access, leaving our neighbors less healthy and less able to overcome institutionalized barriers to success.  

The consequences of the Act are clear – there will be increased health inequities, increased personal costs, and a regressive effect on the entire health system. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that within a decade, 24 million Americans will lose essential health care coverage – 14 million of them in the first year. Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, AARP, and the American Medical Association have estimated that:  

  • At least 200,000 low-income people who use New York City's public hospitals will lose insurance, putting additional strain on that system.
  • 2 million residents of New York State would lose coverage, potentially costing state taxpayers close to $4 billion.
  • Millions of adults and children with disabilities, adults aged 50-64, and seniors who depend on Medicaid would be at risk of losing coverage.
  • Adolescents and young adults will be at greater risk for STIs, HIV, and unintended pregnancies due to associated federal budget cuts to family planning and reproductive care.  

The administration's draft budget also places the greatest burden on those with the least resources. The list of lifeline programs to be cut or eliminated is extensive. Among them: Meals on Wheels for homebound seniors; community block grants that pay for homelessness prevention, poverty reduction, and legal services; nutrition assistance for the poorest women, children and infants; and federal funds for public housing. The list of our concerns is too long to cite. And though there will be changes before the budget is finalized, the thrust is unmistakable. Even a fraction of these reductions will have severe consequences for the most vulnerable in the short term, with potentially far-reaching impacts for a lifetime. 

We will continue to follow these new threats closely. And we are prepared to respond, just as we already have following the executive orders on immigration. Since their issuance, we have seen a rise in fear and anxiety from our immigrant clients. We have stepped up efforts to provide legal guidance by holding eight "Know Your Rights" sessions in 3 languages, testifying at City Council hearings, making presentations to national and local youth organizations, and reaffirming that we are a welcoming, safe space. 

Our shared responsibility is to protect the children, families, seniors, and men and women of all ages who have the least, and to help them access every opportunity to thrive and live with dignity. This is an enterprise that we share with you. Our neighbors will need our unswerving emotional and financial support in the months ahead. We are deeply grateful for your partnership. We know that when we work together as a community, our strength knows no bounds.

Yours in partnership,

Eric Weingartner 
CEO, University Settlement and The Door


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