Human service providers and advocates are reacting with dismay and disappointment over the agreements announced yesterday in Albany for New York State’s budget for the FY2011-12 fiscal year beginning on April 1st. Governor Andrew Cuomo succeeded in his pledge to close a $10 billion budget shortfall almost entirely by spending cuts. The legislature won only limited funding restorations, including $272 million in education and $91 million in human services. The Governor and the State Senate resisted proposals by advocates and the Assembly to extend the existing “Millionaires Tax” surcharge for high income households which would have reduced the need for program and spending cuts by $1 billion this year and $5 billion in FY2012-13.
“The budget is insufficient to meet the continuing high levels of need in our communities,” said Allison Sesso, Deputy Executive Director of the Human Services Council of New York. “It is that simple.”
“The state budget may be on time for the first time in many years, but that is where the good news ends,” said Jennifer March-Joly, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. “Despite some progress in the area of juvenile justice, overall, the state budget deal is incredibly painful – it reduces or eliminates support for many essential child and family programs, shifts mandated program costs to localities, and dramatically reduces state support for education. CCC is dismayed that state elected leaders failed to extend the temporary surcharge on the state’s highest earners and in doing so chose to resolve the state’s deficit on the backs of the most vulnerable, notably children.”
“This year’s budget will be extremely challenging for the human services sector,” said Ronald Soloway, Managing Director of Government and External Relations at UJA-Federation. “While we recognize the need for fiscal constraint, our ability to help the poor and vulnerable will certainly be made more difficult by lack of resources.”
“We are glad that the State Legislature and Governor Cuomo agreed to some restorations to critical human services such as senior centers and the Summer Youth Employment Program and rejects the Executive’s misguided proposal to impose full family sanctions on public assistance recipients,” said Nancy Wackstein, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses (UNH). “However, this budget still places too much of the burden of the State’s fiscal challenges on low-income communities and working families. We are disappointed that this budget agreement will cut funding for after-school programs and housing support for homeless people while giving a tax cut to high-income New Yorkers.”
“In a very difficult budget year, the legislature and the governor worked hard to minimize the impact, but there will be program losses which will affect kids and families,” said Jim Purcell, CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies. “We all realized that we were going to take some cuts. We are grateful that they restored the funds they did.”
Components making up the $91 million in human service funding restorations included:
• State support for Committee on Special Education (CSE) placements – $34.6 million;
• Restoration of discretionary Title XX funding – $22.4 million;
• Summer Youth Employment Program – $15.5 million;
• A new program to serve homeless individuals and families in NYC – $15 million;
• Restoration of TANF Initiatives – $9.4 million;
• Preventive Programs – $8.7 million;
• Rejection of Full Family Sanctions – $7.4 million;
• Employment and Training Programs – $2.3 million;
• State Veteran’s Cemetary – $500,000.
These restorations were offset by a $9 million reduction to the Flexible Fund for Family Services and $15 million in other savings.
Despite the generally downhearted reaction to the overall budget agreement, advocates were grateful for those funding restorations that were provided.
The final budget restored approximately $22.4 million in Federal Title XX monies for use in funding senior centers, thereby avoiding the threatened closure of 105 senior centers operating under contract with New York City’s Department for the Aging (DFTA). Governor Cuomo had proposed redirecting those funds in order to save State monies being spent on child welfare programs. “The Council of Senior Centers and Services (CSCS) would like to commend all of our elected leaders for fiercely working towards saving senior centers for 10,000 older New Yorkers,” said Igal Jellinek, Executive Director at CSCS.
The final budget also rejected the Governor’s proposal to create a Primary Prevention Incentive Program (PPIP) that would have collapsed funding for the Youth Development and Delinquency Prevention program (YDDP), Special Delinquency Prevention Program (SDPP), Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) funding, Settlement Houses funding, as well as five other funding streams that are distributed to counties or directly to provider/community-based agencies. An estimated $8.7 million of the almost $50 million in total cuts originally proposed for these programs was restored.
The restoration of $9.4 million in TANF Initiatives represents only 16% of current year funding levels, with many programs cut drastically and others eliminated entirely. Advantage Afterschool, for example will see the TANF portion of its funding drop from $11.2 million to $500,000. Among those programs being eliminated are Green Jobs Corps, Health Care Jobs Program, Career Pathways, Advanced Technology Training and Information Networking (ATTAIN); and more.
Homeless services advocates saw at least partial restoration of a funding cut which had threatened to end New York City’s rental subsidy program for people coming out of shelters. “The details of this new subsidy remain to be seen but any new program must take into account the input by the people who administer it and the people it is designed to serve,” said Christy Parque, Executive Director of Homeless Services United. “Now that the state has anted up $15 million for housing subsidies for homeless people it is incumbent upon the Mayor to make a financial commitment to help homeless New Yorkers exit shelter via multiple permanent pathways into housing.”
The Supportive Housing for Families and Young Adults (SHFYA) and Supplemental Homeless Intervention Program (SHIP) also faced major reductions. “We understand this is a tough budget year, but that’s no excuse to be penny-wise, pound foolish,” said Ted Houghton, Executive Director of the Supportive Housing Network of New York. “Any savings achieved by cuts to supportive housing will be far outweighed by millions of dollars in new public spending, as formerly homeless families who are now stably housed and getting their lives back together will instead be forced to turn to expensive shelters, foster care and other unstable living situations. Instead of spending $3,000 a year to help a family or a young adult become independent, we’ll be spending $36,000 a year to keep them in a shelter. By eliminating the Supported Housing for Families and Young Adults program, not funding SRO Support Services for over 1,800 new supportive housing units opening this year, and freezing the creation of new supportive housing for people with psychiatric disabilities, this budget turns back the clock to a time when we didn’t have any solutions to homelessness.”
One of the most vocal critics of the final budget agreement was, in fact, Mayor Bloomberg. “At the outset of the budget process, we urged the Governor and State Legislature to adopt a budget that treats New York City equitably and provides the mandate relief and reform that would allow us to absorb the State’s heavy cuts,” the Mayor said. “This budget agreement appears to fail on both counts, and worse, it passes heavy new costs down to the City. Voters should remember that New York City was singled out by Albany and eliminated from the revenue sharing program, while other localities took no more than a three percent cut.”
The Mayor also confirmed fears that the State budget will only lead to still further cuts in his own upcoming Executive Budget proposal for FY2011-12 which begins on July 1. “Make no mistake: the final budget still cuts New York City more than ever before. The restorations are merely a fraction of the $600 million necessary to avoid additional layoffs and cuts in the City’s budget – beyond what was announced in February – for the upcoming fiscal year,” he said.
For more detail on restorations in the final state budget, see reports by the Joint Legislative Conference Budget Subcommittees in the areas of Human Services, Mental Hygiene, Education and Higher Education.