New York City's HIV Planning Council voted Thursday to launch an investigation into a $14 million cut in federal funds to the city's AIDS programs. The US Department of Health and Human Services recently slashed the city's share of Ryan White Title I funds by 12 percent -- from $118 million last year to $104 million this year.
The panel's decision came during a heated meeting to discuss how the city would deal with the federal cut. Several members of the planning council -- a 50-member citywide panel that decides how Ryan White funds are distributed -- lashed out at the city Health Department and blamed it for the reduction. "How did the city Health Department spend thousands of dollars writing an application that was ranked so poorly?" asked council member Candia Richards-Clarke.
Speaking at the meeting, Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden defended the application and welcomed the investigation. "If you find problems with the application, let's use that to make sure next year's application is better. But my take is that absolutely nothing in the application justifies this cut," he said. The city is talking with federal officials to try and restore the funds, Frieden said.
The HIV Planning Council also approved its budget at the meeting; this required across-the-board service cuts of 3.5 percent. Among city services that will suffer are mental health care, food pantries, housing, transportation and ambulatory medical care.
Council member Joe Pressley faulted Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the cut and said the city should use more tax money for AIDS programs. "We need the mayor to fix this hole that I think he created," Pressley said.
City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan), in a separate action, has lodged a formal complaint with the federal government about the $14 million cut.
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