New York: Bloomberg Backs Down on AIDS Cuts

The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signaled on Thursday that a budget proposal to cut 248 city AIDS case managers has been shelved. The city HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) has 850 case managers, and the mayor's proposal would have saved $4.2 million toward closing the city's $4.9 billion gap for fiscal 2011, which begins July 1.

"We will not be attritting-out or redeploying any of the HASA case managers," Roy A. Esnard, general counsel of the city's Human Resources Administration, told federal court Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak during the June 24 hearing. "That leaves in place the 248 case managers," Esnard said. The court was hearing the AIDS agency Housing Works' request for a restraining order to stop the cuts. The group cited previous court rulings that require a limit on the client-manager ratio.

At the hearing, the city and Housing Works agreed to sign a stipulation on Friday finalizing the deal. The City Council has already taken up the budget for consideration, and a vote is expected within days.

"Frankly, the temporary restraining order is ready to go," Pollak said Thursday, adding that she preferred a stipulation resolving the issue.

HASA case managers are vital for helping people with AIDS access government assistance including food stamps, Medicaid, housing and other programs. Only HASA case managers can link patients to some benefits. The agency serves some 45,000 people with AIDS and their dependents.

"We are delighted that the city has decided to withdraw a series of cuts, cuts that would have destroyed HASA," said Armen Merjian, a senior staff attorney at Housing Works. "Forty-five thousand people with AIDS will breathe a sigh of relief today."

Joining Housing Works in seeking the injunction were the HIV Law Project, attorney Virginia Shubert and the law firm Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady.