Assemblyman Steve Stern, (D-Melville) announced his support for a series of bills to help New Yorkers with disabilities lead full, independent lives by ensuring access to critical resources, expanding disability rights and encouraging more job opportunities. The legislative package was passed in recognition of this years Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day May 29.
People with disabilities face unique challenges; however, that shouldnt prevent them from reaching their fullest potential, Assemblyman Stern said. We need to ensure these New Yorkers are treated with respect and equality and are given every opportunity to live independent lives and reach for their goals.
Financial burdens pose challenges for those with disabilities, Assemblyman Stern noted. To help manage these costs, the New York Achieving a Better Life Experience (NY ABLE) Program allows people with disabilities and their families to save money in tax-advantaged accounts without impacting their eligibility for federal benefit programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. This allows their earnings to grow tax-deferred and ensures they can withdraw their savings tax-free for any expenses related to their disability or intended to better their quality of life, including for education, health, housing and transportation purposes.
The Assembly passed a measure to increase the allowable maximum account balance to $520,000, the same as College 529 plans. The Assembly also passed a measure to make access to often expensive but critical adaptive medical equipment less burdensome.
The legislative package also includes measures to fight discrimination, allowing application of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to State employees. The Assembly also re-authorized a law that requires printed curriculum be available to electronic formats for students with disabilities, at a comparable cost to written materials. Assemblyman Stern also co-sponsored legislation to re-establish the Office of Advocate for people with disabilities.
As a Suffolk County Legislator, I sponsored legislation to require nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals prepare emergency evacuation plans and file them with the county Fire Rescue and Emergency Services Department to protect our most vulnerable, and to allow people to register so that first responders can give priority to those needing additional assistance, Assemblyman Stern said. In Albany, I am proud to co-sponsor legislation to ensure New Yorkers with disabilities are protected in case of an emergency, by requiring counties with local emergency management plans to maintain a confidential registry of people of all ages with disabilities who may require evacuation assistance and shelter during a disaster.
Many individuals with disabilities strive to enter the workforce, but are faced with discrimination and are turned away even if they have the necessary skills, Assemblyman Stern noted. In fact, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than twice the rate of those without a disability. To help level the playing field, the Assembly passed a measure, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Stern that would establish a small-business tax credit for the employment of people with disabilities.
The Assembly legislation also includes a bill that would create a tax credit for either new or retrofitted principal residences that are universally designed to be accessible and adaptable. As a Suffolk County Legislator, I authored legislation to encourage universal design to enable people to remain in the homes they love and the communities they helped build, as they age or if they become disabled, Assemblyman Stern said. This measure builds on that initiative and also helps reduce institutionalization, which is not only more expensive, but also is distressing for those forced from their homes and for their families.
In additional to other reforms passed during this session to make voting easier for all new Yorkers, the Assembly passed a bill to require the Board of Elections to post a sample ballot in a format readable with adaptive equipment so that voters with disabilities can exercise their rights without added barriers.
This group of initiatives makes critically needed progress in leveling the playing field for those with disabilities and increasing opportunity, independence and understanding for our neighbors with disabilities, Assemblyman Stern said. I am proud to join with my colleagues on Legislative Disability Day to support these important measures.