WEST VILLAGE — Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to add more funding to efforts that would eliminate the AIDS epidemic similar to Mayor Bill de Blasio, an advisor to the governor on AIDS issues said.
Cuomo appointed a panel of in-state health experts to a task force last year to create a "blueprint" to bring the number of new HIV diagnoses in New York below epidemic levels by 2020 (down to 750 from about 3,000).
One of those appointees, Amida Care CEO and President Doug Wirth, wants Cuomo to add funding in his budget amendments, set to be released on Wednesday, specifically for housing assistance for people who are HIV-positive.
Wirth lauded de Blasio's plan to expand housing assistance through a city program called HASA, long available only to New Yorkers with AIDS or symptomatic HIV, to cover all HIV-positive city dwellers — an increase of about 7,300 people. The mayor dedicated $26.2 million in his preliminary budget for this year, and a projected $44 million in years to come, toward that end.
Food and housing struggles are the two things that keep most HIV-positive New Yorkers from seeking and getting health care, Wirth said. He and other health experts believe housing assistance, while costly now, will end up saving the city and state billions in health care costs down the road.
Wirth and others consistently praise Cuomo for his plan, but some were shocked when the governor only put forward $10 million when he released blueprint.
The plan is estimated to cost billions of dollars, and the most important elements — housing and increasing state Medicaid funding — are also the most expensive. The required Medicaid increase alone is estimated to be $2.25 billion.
After months of ducking calls to match the governor's blueprint funding, de Blasio announced his own funding and the HASA expansion plan on World AIDS Day.
The ongoing feud between the two leaders appeared to benefit the HIV/AIDS community at that point, as Cuomo also announced that day an additional $200 million in funding.
Advocacy organizations believed that to mean $200 million this year, and lauded the increase in the state's existing annual $2.5 billion in HIV/AIDS-related funding as "nothing short of remarkable."
But in the governor's budget, the $200 million is a "multi-year commitment" that would average out to roughly $40 million per year — a 1.6 percent increase rather than the 8 percent increase advocate originally cheered, as POLITICO New York reported.
Wirth noted that Cuomo's recently released budget does not specify how much of that $200 million will be included this year, or what it will be used for, though the governor mentions housing as a priority.
Expanding HASA is expected to cost $99 million, POLITICO New York reported. Wirth wants Cuomo to allocate an additional $33 million, on top of de Blasio's $26.2 million, to fund the first year of HASA's expansion.
Typically the city pays 70 percent of HASA costs, and the state contributes 30 percent. De Blasio's plan demands the state put up more than half the costs, POLITICO New York reported.
Wirth also wants Cuomo to add an additional $10 million to the $10 million already earmarked for the Ending the Epidemic blueprint.
Cuomo's office did not immediately say how much of the $200 million is in this year's budget, or what it will fund.
A spokeswoman highlighted the governor's existing "$2.5 billion annual investment" in HIV/AIDS-related funding, but also did not specify where that funding can be found in the budget.
"No one is more committed to ending HIV/AIDS than Gov. Cuomo who with a $2.5 billion annual investment, has made New York State a national leader by pledging to end the epidemic by 2020 and providing quality support services to those impacted by the disease," said spokeswoman Dani Lever. "Any group who questions the governor’s determination to assisting people fighting this disease is simply misinformed."