Human services will be taking some significant and immediate hits as part of new efforts announced yesterday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to close a $3.3 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year 2011-2012. The overall package included $585 million of new gap closing actions in the current fiscal year and $1 billion of cuts in Fiscal Year 2012. Just as troubling as the newly proposed service cuts is the clear indication that substantial additional cutbacks will be coming in the very near future as the City continues to grapple with a remaining $2.4 billion deficit for next fiscal year.
“We face a significant challenge for next year, as Federal stimulus dollars run dry and the city still suffers from the impacts of the national economic downturn,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We began working to attack next year’s deficit immediately after passing this year’s balanced budget, and there is still more work to do. More spending reductions are going to be necessary, and we have to continue to reduce the number of employees we have by not filling positions – we simply cannot afford the size of our current workforce.”
The Mayor’s plan includes significant cuts to the City’s own operations, including the anticipated loss of approximately 10,000 employees through attrition and layoff. Several city agencies involved in human service delivery will see the loss of budgeted, if often currently vacant, budget lines: These include:
Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), approximately 200 positions;
Human Resources Administration (HRA), 96 positions;
Department of Homeless Services (DHS), 15 percent of security guards in directly operated family shelters;
Department for the Aging (DFTA), 14 staff positions;
Department of Probation, 57 positions.
Human services programs generally provided by nonprofit contract agencies are also facing some substantial cuts.
The Department for the Aging will be cutting $3.3 million this year and $6.6 million in FY2012 and beyond as part what will be a 30% reduction in funding for case management contracts.
ACS will be increasing co-payments from parents for child care services from 12% to 17% of adjusted family income for a total budget savings of $13 million beginning next fiscal year. The agency will also be reducing funding for homemaking services by $2.5 million this year and $5 million annually going forward.
Department of Youth and Community Development will eliminate 2,140 summer youth employment program slots next year ($3.2 million) and reduce OST Option I and NYCHA Cornerstone program school holiday availability ($7.2 million annually beginning this fiscal year). Beacon Center programs will see a 10% reduction in funding ($2.6 million annually) while literacy contracts will tak a 6% cut this year and an11% cut going forward. Cuts to Runaway and Homeless Youth programs will include cuts to five drop-in centers and elimination of city funds for street outreach programs. City Council discretionary programs will take a 5.4% cut this year.
DHS will implement a series of redesigns to graduated and performance-based payment systems totaling approximately $3.3 million per year.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will reduce contracts for targeted mental health and outpatient substance abuse programs and eliminate of city funding for MRDD clinics for a total savings of $4.9 million annually.
The details of how many of these budget reductions would be implemented remains unclear at this moment.
“Once again, the Mayor has put programs for working families and the poor on the chopping block,” said Nancy Wackstein, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses. “Cuts to child care subsidies, senior services, after school programs, adult literacy and summer jobs will add to the insecurity that families are already feeling in this fragile economy. Without these services there can be no economic recovery for New York’s communities. These programs and services help people find and keep jobs.”
The Council of Senior Centers and Services (CSCS) reacted strongly to the Mayor’s plans to cut DFTA case management services. “This is not just a cut,” said Bobbie Sackman, Director of Public Policy at CSCS. “This will eviscerate a program for frail, homebound people whose average age is 85. These are very complex cases. Social workers go into their homes and coordinate the provision of services to meet their needs. They help people who are threatened by elder abuse, who have serious medical issues and are struggling financially. They have even prevented suicides due to a combination of depression and extreme isolation. These cuts are further dismantling the City’s safety net for seniors who remain home. We are very concerned about the future of DFTA at a time when they are serving the fastest growing population in the City.”
In an effort to fight the planned service reductions, CSCS launched a letter writing campaign earlier this week urging impacted seniors to reach out to the Mayor and other elected officials. To learn more about this campaign, visit www.cscs-ny.org.
Even more distressing than the Mayors newest rounds of cuts, say some observers, is the likelihood that future budget reductions may be even worse.
“This is just the beginning,” says Allison Sesso, Deputy Executive Director of Human Services Council of NYC. “I hope the public understands what these and future cuts will mean for critical services in their communities.”