N.Y. Governor Vetoes HIV/AIDS Rent Cap



Citing the imperiled finances of New York, governor David Paterson
angered activists with his veto of a bill that would have capped the percentage of income that
public assistance recipients who are HIV-positive or living with AIDS
may spend on rent.

The bill, which passed the senate and assembly by wide margins, would have prevented individuals receiving assistance from New York City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration from having to spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Advocates for HASA clients say this group is alone among public assistance recipients in lacking a rent cap, which forces them to choose between paying their rent or other essentials like groceries, transportation, utilities and medical expenses.

“Federal dollars require that if federal dollars are implicated, then contributions be capped at 30%,” said Charles King, president and CEO of Housing Works, which led a protest with 75 people outside Paterson’s Midtown Manhattan office Monday morning. “This funding stream is purely city and state, so they are not bound by federal regulations. They are the only people in New York State who receive any kind of subsidized housing who pay more than 30% of their income.”

Paterson, a vocal advocate of LGBT rights, announced the veto Sunday in a statement tinged with regret. The veto follows his rejection of 6,000 items this past summer in an attempt to close the state’s $9.2 billion budget deficit.

“This is my most difficult veto," he said. "I recognize, sadly, the history of the inadequacy of services government has brought to bear for those with HIV/AIDS. But, unhappily, this is not the only veto decision I have had to make that could adversely affect innocent New Yorkers who are seriously ill or disabled and who look to government for assistance. Yet, I am duty bound."

The state division of budget estimated the measure, expected to help about 10,000 people, would have cost the cash-strapped state and city at least $20 million. Paterson said he would sign the bill if the legislature can identify adequate funding through budget cuts or appropriate revenue in the final months before his term ends.

State senator Thomas K. Duane, the gay and HIV-positive sponsor of the bill, issued a statement decrying the veto as “an incredible injustice.” The senator delivered an impassioned speech for the bill, at times screaming, on the senate floor at 3 a.m. last year.

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