Advocates Call for Overturn of Vetoed Bill for AIDS Patients

AIDS activists descended on Gov. David Paterson's headquarters Monday morning, following the governor's weekend veto of a bill that would have helped low income tenants living with HIV and AIDS pay their rent. Now, protesters say they want state lawmakers to override the veto.

The bill, which would cap the amount tenants in New York City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA), pay at 30 percent of their income -- the same as other groups who receive housing assistance.

The governor said that it was his “most difficult veto” but that there wasn’t money in the state budget to pay what he said would be a $20 million price tag. He also says he would approve the bill if the legislature could find the money. Mayor Michael Bloomberg supported the governor's veto saying the bill was an unfunded mandate.

But advocates say the city would save money by preventing evictions and homelessness -- expenses passed on to other agencies.

“The city would reap the biggest benefits, from reductions in the costs of people having to stay in commercial SROs (single room occupancy) often at three and four times the cost of what an apartment rent would be,” says Charles King, the President of Housing Works, an AIDS services organization. King adds that stable housing would also mean fewer emergency room and hospital visits.

He says people living with HIV and AIDS, who are receiving public assistance, are often living on just $11 or $12 a day. 

Rep. Deborah Glick, who sponsored the bill, say she will meet with Senate sponsor, Sen. Thomas Duane, to decide whether to pursue a veto-override vote. Glick says it was unlikely they would have the votes in the Assembly to override a veto which would require 100 votes. The bill passed in the Assembly, 84 to 54 and the Senate, 42-19.

Currently, there are about 10,000 people living with HIV or AIDS in the city who would qualify for the rent cap, if the law takes effect.

Reporting by Christine Black