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Assembly “One House” Budget Bill Adds Funds for Human Services

March 13, 2014
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AssemblyThe New York State Assembly released its “One House” Budget Bill yesterday, staking out its own starting position on upcoming three-way negotiations with the State Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo.   The bill includes funding for a broad range of programs and initiatives that human service providers had been hoping for but certainly not everything.

Perhaps highest in terms of political profile is the Assembly’s support for NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed personal income tax surcharge to fund Universal Pre-K (UPK) and after-school programs. The surcharge of .534 percent will be applied to those earning more than $500,000. The Assembly proposal also commits $100 million to fund UPK which targets high-needs districts. The sustainable grant program is a multi-year commitment that provides significant funding to expand full-day UPK in all parts of the state.

The Assembly budget also restores a two percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for human services workers at state funded human services agencies. The $105 million proposal, which was agreed to in 2008 but delayed each year since, will provide the first pay increase for care providers in more than five years. The COLA would be implemented for programs funded by the State Offices for Aging, Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, Children and Family Services, Mental Health, People with Developmental Disabilities and the Department of Health.

“The Assembly Majority has always taken steps to support programs that assist families and those who struggle to care for themselves,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “This budget not only continues our investment in these programs, but it makes a commitment to increase wages for our hard working and under-appreciated men and women who deliver critical services for the most vulnerable among us.”

In addition to COLAs, the Assembly fiscal plan includes $3.3 million to support a one percent increase in the state share for Child Welfare Services beginning October 1, 2014. The proposal also provides $28.1 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to restore the following programs:

  • $11 million for Facilitated Enrollment;
  • $5 million for ATTAIN;
  • $2 million for Settlement Houses;
  • $2 million for Nurse-Family Partnership;
  • $1.5 million for Non-Residential Domestic Violence;
  • $1 million for Career Pathways;
  • $1 million for Preventive Services;
  • $800,000 for Welfare to Careers;
  • $500,000 for Caretaker Relative/ Kinship;
  • $500,000 for Emergency Homeless Needs;
  • $500,000 for Advantage Schools;
  • $334,000 for SUNY/CUNY Child Care;
  • $250,000 for Educational Resources;
  • $219,000 for transportation initiatives to access work;
  • $200,000 for Fatherhood Initiative;
  • $144,000 for Wage Subsidy Program; and
  • $102,000 for Bridge.
  • The Assembly invests in several other essential human services programs including:
  • $70 million to equalize the family share co-pay for subsidized child care to 20 percent or less of income over the Federal poverty level;
  • $11 million to increase child care subsidies statewide, part of a four year, $44 million commitment;
  • $1.75 million for Community Reinvestment;
  • $1.65 million for Safe Harbour;
  • $1.3 million for Youth Development;
  • $1 million for the Community Services for the Elderly;
  • $1 million for opiate abuse treatment and prevention;
  • $757,200 for Caseload Reduction;
  • $500,000 for the Disability Advocacy Program;
  • $500,000 for Mobile Crisis Units;
  • $200,000 for CASES;
  • $150,000 for Rape Crisis Centers; and
  • $100,000 for the Veterans Justice Program.

The bill’s education section also expands the $2 billion Smart School Bond Act by an additional $317 million to accommodate the needs of children attending nonpublic schools, as well as children attending Special Act school districts, approved private schools for the education of school age students with disabilities and state supported schools for the blind and deaf.

It also includes $1.5 million for the Consortium for Worker Education; $1 million for Bilingual Education Grants; and $1 million for Adult Literacy Education.

Nonprofits React

Allison Sesso, Executive Director of the Human Services Council of New York, applauded the Assembly’s proposal to provide human service COLAs.  “We are glad that there is recognition on the impact which inflation is having on nonprofit provider agency operating costs and the need to do something about it,” she said.  “We greatly appreciate the leadership of Assembly Members Harvey Weisenberg, Aileen Gunther, and others on this issue.”

The Campaign for Children, a coalition of over 150 early childhood and afterschool provider agencies, praised the Assembly bill. “Quality early education and after-school programs create opportunities for all New York’s children,” the group said in a formal statement. “The Campaign for Children is grateful that the Assembly prioritized early education and after-school in the budget.   We look forward to a final state budget that ensures these programs succeed.”

“The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) applauds the Assembly for creating a budget proposal that includes much needed provisions designed to provide economic relief and opportunities for social mobility to low-income New Yorkers,” said Chief Program and Policy Officer Wayne Ho. “The proposal, which includes an increase in child care subsidies, public assistance sanction reform, and tuition assistance for foster youth, will go a long way in creating a path to economic security for millions of children and families across the state. We look forward to working with the Senate and Governor to ensure the inclusion of these provisions in the final budget bill.

“We are thrilled that the Assembly’s budget proposal helps more low-income people to get a college education and obtain economic security,” Ho continued. “The budget proposal moves individuals in foster care and wards of the court from the independent Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) schedule to the dependent schedule. These young adults would then be eligible for a greater TAP award, leading to increased economic mobility.  The Assembly also expands access to education and training for individuals receiving welfare, providing them a proven route out of poverty.”

However, the bill did not include everything for which all human service providers had hoped.

“The aging services network has advocated for $26 million for the Community Services for the Elderly program,” said Bobbie Sackman, Director of Public Policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services, noting that 7,000 frail older New Yorkers across the state are on waiting lists for case management, meals-on-wheels, transportation, and other services critical to their ability to remain home.  “The Assembly budget bill allocated only $1 million. New York is in the middle of an age tsunami and unmet needs will only grow. We believe it is incumbent upon the state to step up to the plate and meet the basic needs of the fastest growing segment of the state’s population, the over 85.”

As we went to press, advocates were anxiously awaiting release of the Senate’s “One House” Bill.

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