This Week in Albany

Week Ending September 30, 2016

Updated Fiscal Stress Scores Released

Comptroller DiNapoli released the latest fiscal stress scores for local governments this week, finding 40 municipalities in the state to be fiscally stressed at the end of 2015. This is slightly down from the 44 municipalities found to be in stress in 2014. Click here to see a list of the municipalities considered to be stressed.

State aid to municipalities through Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) payments has remained flat since Fiscal Year 2008-09. This lack of state support has clearly added to the stress felt by local governments. For years CSEA has advocated for increased support for local governments, and we will continue to do so until the needs of our communities are properly met.

Election Spotlight

This week, our “Election Spotlight” takes a look at Senate district 6, covering part of Nassau County. The district is represented by Senator Kemp Hannon.

The deadline to register to vote in the November 8 General Election is October 14. Click here to download a voter registration form.

Federal Spending Agreement Reached

Congress reached an agreement this week on a short-term funding bill to keep the federal government funded through December 9. Funding was set to run out at the end of the week.

The spending deal provides additional funding to combat the Zika virus and opioid epidemic, and will provide funding for Flint, Michigan’s water crisis through separate legislation. There are no restrictions on Planned Parenthood included in the agreement.

Congress will need to reach a longer-term agreement when they return for a lame duck session following the General Election.


Advocates for Children Call on Gov. Cuomo to Sign Legislation Enhancing Child Protective Services

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State Sen. William Larkin speaks Sept. 29, 2016 in Newburgh, urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the Child Protective Services Safety Act.

For immediate release: September 29, 2016

CITY OF NEWBURGH – Across New York State, a growing number of children are at risk of abuse and neglect, compounded by the recent rise in heroin abuse, while the very people responsible for their protection – county Child Protective Services (CPS) workers – are often overwhelmed with high caseloads that put our most vulnerable children at risk of falling through the cracks.

That’s why a bipartisan group of state and county lawmakers, children’s advocates and union leaders came together Thursday in Newburgh at a news conference to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the Child Protective Services Safety Act, which the Assembly and Senate approved in June.

The legislation (A.10506/Lupardo/S.2691/Golden) would limit child protective services caseloads to 15 active cases per month, which would give workers more time to devote to cases for the children most at risk. While the legislation allots two years for full implementation, it’s is a significant step toward helping vulnerable children and families, the workers providing the services and the communities as a whole.

Organizing the Newburgh event was the Civil Service Employees Association, the union representing roughly 1,500 CPS workers statewide. CSEA President Danny Donohue, who urged the legislation’s passage this spring, said the state has a moral obligation to protect at-risk children. Donohue said challenges for CPS workers continue to grow, due in large part to the sluggish economy and the impact that the heroin epidemic has had on families.

“Many of the decisions child protective services must make every day can literally mean life or death for the children in their care,” said Donohue. “These workers see horrific cases of abuse every day; the stress over agonizing about the choices they must make is unimaginable. Signing this legislation into law won’t just help alleviate caseloads for workers who are already stretched too thin, but will save lives.”

“Child protective services workers, no matter which county you visit, share the same worries about the children in their care when they go to sleep each night,” said CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo, who represents CSEA members across seven counties in the Hudson Valley. “Putting a limit on caseloads will allow workers the chance to spend more time and be more proactive with our most vulnerable children, allowing for better outcomes.”

Area Assembly members Frank Skartados, James Skoufis and Ellen Jaffee, all of whom served as co-sponsors of the bill, said the legislation was based on a 2006 study by the state Office of Children and Family Services that found smaller caseloads were directly related to better outcomes for children.

Skartados said, “Children who fall under the review of social services should always be in good hands, but sadly this is not always the case. While nobody takes their job more seriously than caseworkers, there are limits to their effectiveness when there are too many cases to handle. I urge the Governor to sign this legislation that will bring fairness to the system and safety to the children, by establishing reasonable workload standards.”

Skoufis said, “This critical bill must become law to ensure that no child falls through the cracks and has to endure another day in danger due to burdensome caseloads.”

Jaffee said, “We call on the Governor to sign the Child Protective Services Safety Act, which passed both the Assembly and the Senate with strong bi-partisan support. It’s been 10 years since a 2006 report by the state Office of Children and Family Services found that smaller caseloads directly benefit children under supervision.  Child protective services workers, who must respond to caseloads that can run up to 70 active cases a month, are too often limited in their ability to address growing concerns about child abuse. This critical legislation would limit the caseloads of CSEA-represented child protective services workers to 15 per month. We owe it to these child protective services workers, and to our most vulnerable children under their supervision, to ensure this essential legislation is signed into law.”

Also taking part in the Newburgh event were state Sen. William Larkin and state Sen. Sue Serino, both of whom voted in favor of the legislation in the Senate, as well as Orange County Legislators Mike Anagnostakis and Phil Canterino. County Executive Steve Neuhaus, while unable to attend the Newburgh event, pledged his support for the legislation.

CSEA has launched a statewide campaign aimed at raising awareness of the impact of the overwhelming caseloads on children, and urging the Governor to sign the legislation into law.

CSEA, the Civil Service Employees Association, is New York’s leading union, representing employees of New York State and its counties, towns, villages, school districts, library systems, authorities and public corporations. Together with a growing population of private sector members, daycare workers and 50,000 retirees, CSEA forms a union 300,000 strong. It is also the largest affiliate (and Local 1000) of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which, in turn, is one of the largest affiliates of the AFL-CIO.

For Your Consideration

Here is an updated list of CSEA endorsed candidates for the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly. All candidates have been vetted by CSEA’s Political Action Department. Please consider giving them your vote on election day.

 

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NYSHIP Dependent Eligibility Audit

Final Phase:  Removal of Non-Verified Dependents

NYSHIP’s dependent eligibility verification project impacts all NYSHIP enrollees with family health insurance (The Empire Plan and NYSHIP HMOs).  The audit helps to ensure that every participant who receives NYSHIP health benefits is entitled to those benefits.

Health Management Systems, Inc. (HMS) has completed the NYSHIP Dependent Eligibility Verification Audit (DEVA) for active New York State Agency enrollees and their covered dependents.  Enrollees were required to provide proof of eligibility for their covered dependents by August 19, 2016 and were notified of a grace period which extended their reporting deadline to September 7, 2016.

Beginning October 2, 2016, NYS will initiate the removal of unverified dependents from NYSHIP coverage retroactive to January 1, 2016.  Medicare primary dependents will be terminated in accordance with CMS guidelines.

NOTE:  There will be a 90-day reinstatement period available through

December 6, 2016.  Enrollees in receipt of a “Notice of Cancellation of Coverage” from NYSHIP who wish to appeal, should contact HMS directly at 1-866-252-0635 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.  Appeals for reinstatement must be received by HMS no later than December 6, 2016; you may fax documentation to 1-877-223-8478 or upload documentation via www.VerifyOS.com (HMS reference number from correspondence will be required).

 

The Long Island Reporter Is Now Available As An Ebook

Click on the link provided to read the latest edition of the Long Island Reporter.

https://cseany.org/ebooks/10_2016_LI_Reporter/#/1/

 

 

 

Federal Issues Update

AFSCME Legislative Weekly Report
Week ending September 23, 2016

Headlines include:

  • Breakdown in Negotiations to Prevent a Government Shutdown
  • Overtime: The Hits Just Keep on Coming
  • House Panel Examines Mylan’s Price Gouging for EpiPens®
  • Competing Social Security Solvency Projections

Continue reading…


A Mother’s Grief Turns to Activism

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Erie County Probation Officer Debra Smith

Niagara Falls– As the demographics of opioids and heroin use continue to shift, a growing number of working families whose children have died from overdoses are calling for a change in approach to addressing the crisis. The growing armies of families are now using their influence, anger and grief to cushion the country’s approach to drug use, from altering the language around addiction to prodding government to treat it not as a crime, but as a disease. One of those activists is CSEA member Debra Smith from Erie County, who lost her son to addiction in September of 2015.

Smith, who is employed by the Erie County Probation Department, told her story as part of a panel discussion at the Western Region Fall Conference on September 17. Her heartbreaking journey of losing a son has taken her from working on the streets of Erie County to the funeral parlor to the halls of the Erie County Legislature to influence funding, humane treatment for those who suffer from addiction, and for the establishment of an Opiate Epidemic Task Force. Smith is making an attempt to educate others about humanizing addiction to hopefully break the social stigma attached to the disease.

“I am heartbroken. Nathaniel died at 26. He was brilliant, sensitive and kind. He was a loving and gifted person, and he didn’t deserve to die alone,” Smith told fellow conference attendees. “Like many people who experience accidents and injury, he was prescribed Demerol after surgery and became addicted to painkillers. By telling my story, hopefully we can reduce harm by raising awareness, treat the less fortunate with more dignity and spread a little more unconditional love around,” she said.

New CPS legislation must match social demand for policy changes

Many CSEA public service workers report the rise in social service caseloads is partly due to the opioid epidemic and the lack of resources dedicated to drug treatment, family services and mental health services here in New York State and nationwide.

CSEA is calling on Governor Cuomo to sign a bill that would limit the number of cases per month for Child Protective Services workers in an effort to give struggling families the help they so desperately deserve. This was one of the motivating factors why the Western Region Planning and Education Committees thought a panel discussion on the opioid epidemic at the annual Fall Conference was not only timely but a matter of direct urgency.

The Western Region panel presentation encompassed the progression of opiates through history to present day, the effects of opiates on the mind and body, present day treatment methods and recovery. The workshop discussion also included the experience of law enforcement, a social worker responsible for the treatment and care of recovering addicts and testimony from a recovering addict.

Western Region activist Kari Wilferth, who is a Social Services caseworker for Ontario County, said the workshop was empowering, emotional and necessary. “My take away from this experience is that heroin does not discriminate. Addiction can happen to anyone—and we all need to be problem solvers when confronting this epidemic.”

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Debra Smith holds a photo of her son Nathaniel who passed away at age 26. Photo by Ove Overmyer, CSEA ©2016

-Story and Photos by Ove Overmyer, CSEA ©2016

This Week in Albany

Week ending September 23, 2016

Economic Development Programs Lead to Corruption Charges

This week, corruption charges were announced against two former aides to Governor Cuomo along with six other people.

The charges, brought by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, focused on former Cuomo aides Joe Percoco and Todd Howe, SUNY Poly CEO Alain Kaloyeros, and several developers.

The charges involve bid rigging, bribery, corruption, and fraud in dealing with state contracts and other state business.

CSEA has long fought for increased transparency and accountability in economic development programs and outsourcing. These new developments make all the more important our fights to strengthen the Comptroller’s Office role in overseeing how public money is spent, stopping the expansion of design-build authority, and making sure that so-called “economic development” programs actually benefit the people of New York.

Election Spotlight

This week, our “Election Spotlight” takes a look at Senate district 52, covering Broome and Tioga Counties, along with parts of Chenango and Delaware Counties.

The deadline to register to vote in the November 8 General Election is October 14.Click here to download a voter registration form.


The CSEA Crazies Are At It Again

The “CSEA Crazies” will be freezin’ for a reason at the 7th Annual Town of Brookhaven Polar Plunge. Join them on Saturday November 19, 2016 as they jump into the waters of Cedar Beach to raise money for Special Olympics New York. Click on the link to register or sponsor a participant.

http://www.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1161538

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Golf Classic benefits CSEA families

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Anthony Adamo, Assemblyman James Skoufis and Scott Rajczi at the end of a great day of golf.

Nearly 100 golfers braved rainy weather for the 2016 Southern Region Golf Classic, held this year at the Otterkill Golf & Country Club in Campbell Hall.

The annual event raised needed funds for Southern Region scholarships awarded to CSEA members’ children, as well as the Southern Region Emergency Fund. Each year, the Emergency Fund allocates funds for CSEA families experiencing personal crises.

Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo thanked Golf Committee members, especially chair Sue Nakutavicius, for their hard work organizing this important fundraiser. He also thanked all of the generous individuals and businesses for their sponsorships and raffle prize donations.

Southern Region Executive Vice President Scott Rajczi and Statewide PAC Chair (and Southern Region 2nd Vice President) Anthony Adamo addressed golfers at the day’s conclusion. They welcomed Assemblyman James Skoufis, who stopped by the event (held in his district) to thank CSEA members for their hard work and the services they provide.