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Cuomo AIDS Plan Needs $10 Million From De Blasio, Advocates Say

By Danielle Tcholakian | June 19, 2015 1:34pm | Updated on June 22, 2015 8:54am
 Activists rallied on the steps of City Hall on Thursday to demand Mayor Bill de Blasio help fund Gov. Andrew Cuomo's blueprint to end AIDS.
Activists rallied on the steps of City Hall on Thursday to demand Mayor Bill de Blasio help fund Gov. Andrew Cuomo's blueprint to end AIDS.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

CITY HALL — Activists and advocates from dozens of organizations crowded City Hall's steps Thursday to press the mayor and the City Council to chip in $10 million to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "blueprint" to end AIDS by the year 2020.

Cuomo presented his blueprint to much fanfare outside the LGBT Center in the West Village on April 29, after pressure from activists frustrated that he had done nothing since he received the plan from his task force in January.

(The blueprint, produced by a task force of experts impaneled by the governor, is available online.)

"This is a historic moment and we're hoping the city will rise to the occasion and follow in the footsteps of Governor Andrew Cuomo," said Jaron Benjamin, Housing Works’ vice president of community mobilization and one of the rally’s organizers.

Cuomo did not fully fund the program, which is expected to cost more than $2 billion in Medicaid alone, but allocated $10 million to HIV/AIDS research and outreach in the state budget.

As the City Council and de Blasio hammer out the city's budget this week and next, activists insist the city should put forward at least $10 million in its own budget, given that 80 percent of New Yorkers living with HIV reside in New York City.

Councilman Corey Johnson, whose district covers the Village and Chelsea, pointed out that the city's budget totals $78 billion this year.

"To ask for $10 million to participate in this blueprint to end the epidemic by 2020 is not asking for a whole lot,” said Johnson, 33, standing with the activists outside City Hall.

The City Council included the $10 million in their version of the city budget back in April. (The funding is detailed on page 30 of this document.)

The fate of the city funding now rests with the mayor.

"We're feeling pretty confident," Benjamin said after the rally.

But the rocky relationship between the mayor and the governor is no secret, and has only become more openly hostile in recent weeks, as the two leaders battle over rent regulations.

Neither administration would say when, if at all, Cuomo notified de Blasio that his plan would require funding from the city.

Though the governor opted to hold his unveiling in Manhattan, De Blasio was notably absent from the event where a steady stream of activists and elected officials — including Johnson — spoke in praise of the plan and the governor.

The mayor's office would not say why the mayor did not attend the April 29 event. His public schedule for that day indicated that de Blasio was in New York City and "had no public events scheduled."

But a de Blasio administration official said City Hall has been disappointed in previous dealings with the state on HIV/AIDS issues.

The state agreed to a 30 percent income cap for rent for New Yorkers living with AIDS, then designed the program in a way that not only left the city to foot the majority of the bill, but also excluded certain people, such as those who receive Social Security Disability benefits, the official said.

“Mayor de Blasio is deeply committed to ending the AIDS epidemic and has made key investments on the city-level," spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said when asked whether de Blasio will put forward money for Cuomo's plan. "We are awaiting details on state funding for the blueprint and how it will be spent. Once we have those details, we will assess potential city funding.”

The governor's office did not respond to any questions.