|City Budget Deal Looks Good for Human Services|
|Tuesday, 16 June 2009 06:46|
They may be rumors, but they are good rumors. That is the general assessment as advocates and providers scramble to learn details of a $59.4 billion New York City budget agreement announced last night by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Human services, it seems, may have dodged a whole volley of bullets with the allocation of significant funding to continue most Council initiatives and even restore several major cuts to the Mayor’s own baselined programs.
“Human services faced over $150 million in potentially destabilizing City budget cuts in fiscal year 2010,” said Susan Stamler, Director of Policy and Advocacy for United Neighborhood Houses. “Although we have not seen the final budget figures, we are thankful that significant restorations will be made for after school programs, senior centers and services for older adults, mental health programs, English and adult literacy classes, and immigrant legal services.”
Few human service areas were highlighted in the formal announcements by Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn. The Council’s press release focused on a $3 million funding restoration to reduce child protective staff layoffs at the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and $8 million for to avoid the closing of 31 classrooms currently serving 5-year-olds at City-funded child care centers.
Among the other major budget restorations reported to be in the works were the following:
The Council’s $3.7 million Child Safety Initiative which has reduced budgeted caseloads in preventive services agencies – a major priority for child welfare advocates -- reportedly was fully restored. “We are very grateful to Speaker Quinn, Chairman de Blasio and all their colleagues for standing up for New York’s children,” said Jim Purcell, CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA). Less clear, however, was the outcome of an proposed 5% reduction to rates paid to foster boarding home service providers.
As noted, the agreement reportedly provided $8 million to restore the balance of 3,500 child care slots currently serving 5-year-olds. The City had originally proposed eliminating the slots entirely in favor of referring all children in that age group to public school kindergartens. It is unclear whether the restored child care capacity will be used to serve younger children or if some kindergarten-age programs in centers will be maintained.
Another $8 million was reportedly restored to provide “Priority 7” child care vouchers, possibly only for an 8-month period. Priority 8 and 9 vouchers were not restored.
Not funded in the new budget were an estimated $12 million in ACS’ “cost allocation” cuts to providers operating both ACS and DOE Universal Pre-Kindergarten programs. “These cuts to 4-year-old programs with UPK programs are punishing some of the best and most innovative and entrepreneurial programs for their ability to leverage funds and expand services,” said Betty Holcomb, Policy Director at Child Care Inc.
Significant restorations to proposed cuts appear likely for senior service providers. The Mayor’s Executive Budget proposal to eliminate $7.1 million in Borough President discretionary funding for aging programs was reportedly restored entirely. Another $533,000 cut to Borough President funding, which had been treated by DFTA as a separate item, remained in question.
Earlier cuts to senior services proposed in the January Financial plan were rumored to have been restored, at least in part. These include the $5 million cut in the form 5% across the board cuts to senior centers and elimination of 6th meal programs where at least some mitigation of the cut was expected. Some advocates reported that a 66% restoration had been agreed upon. Similarly, the $2.36 million elimination of social adult day care programs was said to be partially restored while intergenerational and elder abuse prevention programs were reported to have been fully restored.
Most of the Council’s own initiatives in the areas of aging were reportedly restored. These include $2.5 million for space and equipment at senior centers, $3 million for operating and vehicle costs at senior centers, $4 million for raw food costs, $1.35 million for Health Aging, a $2.4 million Geriatric Mental Health Initiative.
“We are appreciative that funds were restored to maintain these vital services for older New Yorkers,” said Bobby Sackman, Director of Public Policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services, (CSCS).
Youth & Community Services
Funding for at least some youth programs is also being substantially restored, report advocates. A proposed $6 million cut to Out of School Time (OST) Option II programs had reportedly been restored by 80% with the hope that additional Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funding might make up the difference. State approval is reportedly required. Stimulus funds had already more than offset an $18.5 million cut to the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).
The Council also reportedly restored at least $3 million in its own support for Beacons programs and may provide an additional $1 million to partially restored other cuts to the program at the beginning of FY2009.
Other Council initiatives in the area of youth and community services reportedly being fully restored include $1.7 million for Runaway and Homeless Youth, $5 million for the Immigrant Opportunity Initative, $3.8 million for TASC After-3 programs and at least $1 million for Adult Literacy Services (which may have been increased by and additional $0.5 million.)
A $5.4 million cut to OST Option I and summer programs was not restored.
“Given the difficulty of the fiscal situation, it sounds like they have arrived at a pretty good place,” said Michelle Yanche, Staff Director of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition. “I am keeping my fingers crossed that the federal Recovery Act will allow us to keep an even greater portion of these programs whole.”
The Council has reportedly restored all – or almost all – of its Autism Awareness ($1.575 million), Children Under Five ($1.637 million) and Geriatric Mental Health ($2.4 million) initatives.
“We are very pleased that the Council has thought enough of behavioral health to keep the mental health committee initiatives whole and we are especially happy that both Chaiman Kopell and Speaker Quinn have worked on our behalf,” said Philip Saperia, Executive Director of the Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies.
The HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) has reportedly received restoration of funding for its supportive housing case management services ($1.876 million). The budget also included $491,000 for a critical nutrition program for people with HIV/AIDS, a program that the Network and many other advocates also pushed hard to get restored. The agreement did not restore funding for the HASA Scattered Site 2 program.
“For months Network staff and members have been meeting with City Council members and staff, as well as agency staff from HRA and HASA to express our concerns about these cuts,” said the Supportive Housing Network of New York. “We are immensely grateful to Speaker Quinn for her leadership and to Council Members Gale Brewer and Bill de Blasio who carefully examined these cuts and the impacts they would have on HASA tenants and argued for their restoration in the General Welfare Committee and on borough budget negotiating teams.”
More to Come
Information on restorations in other human service areas, including juvenile justice, homelessness and legal services – as well as final clarification on all budget allocations -- were still forthcoming. “An awful lot can happen between the handshake and Kinko’s copier machine,” said one long time observer of the budget process.
While advocates were generally positive about the budget agreement, they continued to express concerns over the loss of programs not refunded.
“We are concerned about the cuts that did take place, e.g. the 5% cut to foster care administrative rates and the HIV/AIDS Scatter Site II housing programs,” said Bich Ha Pham, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Research for the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. “These programs shouldn’t be sacrificed at a time of such great economic need and joblessness.”
Advocates also expressed concern over risks which might threaten to derail the budget, including the need for State approval of both the City’s revenue package of sales tax increases and its plans for federal stimulus funding.