Some 300 people from more than 80 Erie County human services agencies donned black arm bands today to send a message to Albany that proposed budget cuts could devastate their programs.
The agency personnel and their clients marched in front of the American Red Cross Headquarters on Delaware Avenue throughout their lunch hour. Among those represented were Child and Family Services, the Salvation Army, the United Way and the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers.
John Rivera, executive director of Hispanics United of Buffalo, said Gov. Cuomo's proposed budget cuts totaling $1 billion statewide "can mean a loss of more than $3.1 million for Western New York agencies, which would affect, in some way, more than 250,000 people."
"These people," Rivera told the crowd, "are the people who have fallen through the cracks of our society -- the elderly, the poor, the handicapped, teens, the illiterate and victims of domestic violence."
Several speakers urged people to send letters to Albany to protest not only the immediate cuts, but also anticipated cuts in the state's 1991 budget of an additional $1.5 billion.
Dr. Shepard Goldberg, executive director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinic, said, "The governor has used a sledgehammer approach with his proposed cuts."
"No one has yet asked the agencies involved where cuts could be made doing the least damage to our programs and the people we serve," Goldberg said. "By cutting across the board, the fallout will be much more severe on those of us who are trying to help people in need."
Goldberg's clinic serves more than 300 victims of abuse as well as 750 emotionally disturbed children and adults.
Goldberg said his program costs about $20 an hour for his clients, "whereas if they are sent to a private clinic it could cost at least $54 an hour."
Rivera wrapped up the rally by urging all the agencies "to take the message on the street to the people of the community. Let them know it is a community crisis."