Advocates and providers are finding a number of important things to be pleased about in the “one-house” budget bills likely to be voted on today in Albany by the Assembly and Senate. They also see some significant disappointments. Legislative positions on a number of key issues remain unclear as advocates continue to comb through the complex series of budget documents. With passage of these bills, the real negotiations between both houses – and, most importantly, Governor Cuomo — begin.
Both houses are rejecting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plans to divert federal Title XX funding away from senior centers and to collapse several discrete children’s and youth services programs into a single Primary Prevention Incentive Program. Each house has also proposed their own set of funding restorations. At the same time, however, many of the Governor’s cuts to important programs were proposed for only partial restorations – or none at all – by one or both of the legislative bodies. Particularly hard hit have been employment and training related programs. Extremely troubling to advocates is the Senate’s proposal not only to defer planned increase in public assistance grants, but to impose an 11% cut from current levels.
“This is a positive sign,” said Bobbie Sackman, Director of Public Policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services, regarding the moves by both houses to restore use of Title XX funding for senior centers. Governor Cuomo’s proposal to re-direct these funds tot child welfare services, thereby saving State dollars, had led New York City’s Department for the Aging to plan for the closing of 105 senior centers serving 10,000 seniors. “We are hopeful that a full restoration will be agreed to by Governor Cuomo and included in the final enacted budget.”
“We are certainly pleased that both houses have come out against the Primary Prevention Incentive Program (PPIP),” said Sanjiv Rao, Director of the New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN). The Governor’s PPIP proposal would have eliminated discrete 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 – and reduced total funding by more than 50%. “Not only would this have been a huge cut, it would have been very problematic by mixing funding streams that really do not belong together in a single block grant,” said Rao.
The Assembly is now proposing discrete funding for nine programs:
- Home Visiting – $17.5 million;
- Community Optional Preventive Services (COPS) – $16.2 million;
- YDDP/SDPP – $14.2 million;
- Runaway and Homeless Youth – $2.4 million;
- Kinship – $339,000;
- Settlement House Initiative – $451,000;
- Hoyt Children & Family Trust - $829,000;
- Post Placement Services – $312,000;, and,
- Caseload Reduction – $1 million.
The Senate’s proposed restorations for these programs are believed to be at lower levels.
The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), which had been eliminated in the Governor’s Executive Budget, receives a $15.5 million allocation in the Assembly bill and a $10 million allocation in the Senate. “We appreciate the restorations staked out by the Assembly and the Senate,” says Anthony Ng, Director of Policy and Advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses. “However, it is important to remember that two years ago, the Summer Youth Employment Program was funded at $35 million.”
Advantage Afterschool would receive a $5.5 million restoration via TANF funding in the Senate bill – bringing total funding to $22.7 million. The Assembly, however, maintains the program at the Governor’s proposed level of $17.25 million.
Advocates expressed disappointment about the legislature’s failure to restore funding for employment and workforce development programs. “Overall, we are concerned that so many of the jobs programs have been zeroed out or substantially cut,” said Bich Ha Pham, Director of Policy Advocacy and Research at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. “The Green Jobs Corp and Healthcare Jobs Program have both been zeroed out.” Also eliminated was the Transitional Jobs Program. The Wage Subsidy program has been eliminated in both the Governor’s budget and Senate proposals, while proposed for only $5.2 million by the Assembly – down from $14 million FY2009-10.
“At a time when over one million New Yorkers are unemployed or underemployed, the State should be putting more funds into jobs programs, not less,” said Pham, who went on to emphasize the importance of many of these programs for the state’s growing numbers of disconnected youth.”
Advocates also criticized the Senate’s proposal to reduce Public Assistance grant levels by 11%. “This proposal would further reduce family income levels, which are already substantially below the federal poverty level,” says FPWA’s Bich Ha Pham. “Given the great recession, it is hard to believe the Senate would propose such a measure.”
Approval of these two budget bills in the legislature will set the stage for full-fledged negotiations between both houses and the Governor. The Assembly’s bill, including its proposed funding restorations, relies on revenues to be obtained by extension of a “Millionaires Tax” which would continue an income tax surcharge on high income households. Governor Cuomo has repeatedly expressed his opposition to this or any other tax proposals.