Friday, February 4, 2011

Far better for your wallet than a "get rich quick scheme" - The Volunteer Income Tax Program

The Mohawk Valley Asset Building Coalition, a partnership of agencies in Herkimer and Oneida Counties, seeks to increase the availability of free tax preparation assistance through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites.

The VITA Program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income (generally, $49,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns. Trained community volunteers may help with special credits, such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, VITA sites also offer free electronic filing (e-filing). Individuals taking advantage of the e-file program will receive their refunds in half the time compared to returns filed on paper – even faster when tax refunds are deposited directly into one's bank account.

Certified volunteers sponsored by Mohawk Valley Asset Building Coalition partner agencies receive training to help prepare basic tax returns across the Mohawk Valley.

For more information about VITA locations, or the Mohawk Valley Asset Building Coalition, please contact Danell Libby, Project Coordinator at (315) 797-4642.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No one ever says “When I grow up, I want to live in a nursing home”

I once worked for 34-year old man with a spinal cord injury who was diagnosed with a serious infection. Rather than go to the hospital and be discharged to a nursing home for an undetermined period of time, he decided to decline medical care and, in his words, “die at home”. Our failure in the long-term care system is forcing young people to choose between a life of isolation or death. In a country that prides itself on freedom and choice, we are robbing persons with disabilities of both.

Young people can end up in nursing homes for a variety of reasons – brain or spinal injuries, disabilities from birth including developmental disabilities, and complex medical conditions. Often, as a young person becomes older their care needs become more complex and family caregivers do not have the financial or emotional reserves to look after them. It’s not easy for the person or the family. But the long-term care system prioritizes nursing home care over home and community-based supports, regardless of individual preference. And so, in New York more than 6,000 young people under age 21, and thousands more in their early 20s are forced to live in nursing homes.


Without friends. Without family.

It’s strange that nursing home care is a mandatory item under the Medicaid program, while cost-effective home and community based alternatives are not.

We owe more to our young people than to place them in facilities designed to manage end-of-life events and remove them from the presence of family and friends. We need to develop sustainable opportunities for people to have a choice in where they live and how they receive care. We need to urge legislators that state and other agencies need to be held accountable for forcing young persons into segregated facilities like chattle, and that home and community based services can offer a viable solution to escalating Medicaid costs. More than that, we need to work together towards a shared vision for young persons with disabilities that allow them to be vibrant, healthy, and contributing members of the community. We owe at least that much to the thousands of young people who are living in remote facilities across the country, hoping to one day return to where they belong.

- Quinton

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

50% off

When times are tough and there’s just not enough money, we look for coupons, sales, and the ever-favorite “buy one, get one free.” We are a nation that loves a good deal. With 50% off here and 33% off there, things we want turn from far too expensive to a great bargain. How many times have you recounted to friends and family the amazing deal where you got more for less? 

Everyday thousands of New Yorkers with a disability face placement in an institution – anursing home, a psychiatric center, or an “employment workshop” that pays people a dollar an hour. However, many of these individuals are unaware of the “Medicaid Waiver,” which lets people get the help they need to remain living in their community. It’s available to some people that need a significant amount of help with things like dressing, cooking, and getting around. And, instead of charging New York around $70,000 a year, it costs more like $15,000. Most people switching to Medicaid Waivers can expect to save New Yorkers at least 50%. 

So if you have friends, neighbors or family members who have Medicaid and are worried about being placed in group homes or nursing homes, it’s time to share with them inside scoop. 

Times are tough in New York. Let’s make sure everyone knows about the 50% off option. 

This is definitely a deal to brag about.


Monday, January 31, 2011

We need not endure tear gas to be heard

This weekend, thousands of Egyptians who are frustrated with jobs, food, and democratic openness endured riots, tanks, and tear gas. Facing a leader who has failed to promote true democracy, these citizens felt that they had no other choice. Buoyed by tools like Twitter and Facebook, and the successes in Tunisia, what once seemed impossible, looks probable. Thankfully, we don’t need to take to the streets to ensure that our voices and opinion are heard.

We can vote.

We can write.

We can call our legislators.

We can talk without fear of imprisonment.

New York is facing very difficult times and Governor Cuomo is planning on cutting 10% from state agencies that provide for the health and education of people in our communities. The economic challenges, however, need not be difficult if we can ask for sensible solutions from those that know.

That’s you.

If you use Medicaid services or know those that use Medicaid services, than you know what’s working, what’s not working and WHY it’s not working. It may seem difficult take part in the process, to talk and write and be heard. It may be the first time that you’ve spoken out about what matters to you.

But it’s not tear gas. And there are no tanks.

Click here to have your voice heard: