Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the Assembly's SFY 2017-18 Budget includes funding to ensure direct care workers are paid fair livable wages as well as a new proposal to prevent and reduce homelessness across the state. The spending plan also includes funding for services for children and families, heroin addiction treatment and prevention, and veterans.
"There are programs and services offered across New York State that make an immeasurable difference in the day-to-day lives of New Yorkers," said Speaker Heastie. "The Assembly Majority recognizes that these programs are critical to the well-being and success of families and our budget reflects these priorities."
"Homelessness in New York continues to grow at an alarming pace," said Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, chair of the Committee on Social Services. "We must shift our focus and efforts toward preventing homelessness by developing and funding programs that prevent families from having to leave their homes."
"Direct care workers support our state's most vulnerable individuals and, in turn, deserve our support through fair and competitive wages," said Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, chair of the Committee on Mental Health. "These jobs are difficult, yet essential to the lives of many New Yorkers and their families. Our budget includes funding to make sure that these hard working people are paid a living wage for the important quality care they provide."
"Our budget includes funding for core programs that help improve outcomes for children and families across New York State," said Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee, chair of the Committee on Children and Families. "These support services have been proven to keep children safe, increase family stability and enable low-income families to maintain employment and achieve self-sufficiency."
"As the administration in Washington threatens funding of drug treatment programs, it is more important than ever for the State to act as a safety net for all those battling addiction," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, chair of the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee. "New Yorkers struggling with substance use disorder should not be compelled to search far and wide for help; to properly address this epidemic, it is essential to have drug treatment on demand across the State. I am proud the Assembly budget recognizes the urgency in providing and expanding treatment options to all those struggling. It is a great step forward in breaking the stronghold of addiction."
"Veterans have selflessly served our nation and protected our State," said Assemblymember Michael DenDekker, chair of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "That is why our budget restores funding for critical programs that provide essential services for veterans and respectfully assist them during their transition from military service back into civilian life."
The Assembly's budget includes an initial $45 million toward a six-year plan to create a living wage for direct care workers. These professionals care for the state's most vulnerable populations, yet recent increases in minimum wage, and an overall improving economy, have made service providers unable to compete with other private sector jobs. As a result, service providers have experienced extreme difficulty recruiting and retaining quality direct support professional staff. This critical support will enable these providers to offer compensation that is above minimum wage to ensure that facilities are adequately and safely staffed and can continue to deliver these essential services.
Currently, public assistance recipients may receive a cash grant, a shelter allowance that varies on family composition and local social services district, and in some cases, support for heat and energy costs. However, although the cost of living has risen considerably, shelter allowances have not been raised since 2004. As a result, many families are unable to afford the remaining cost of rent even with shelter allowances and other supplements.
The Assembly's Budget proposal includes a new statewide Home Stability Support (HSS) program that would provide a rental supplement to be paid on top of the shelter allowance to bring the combined assistance to 85 percent of the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Fair Market Rent. By ensuring that public assistance recipients are able to better afford stable housing, the state could reduce and prevent further instances of homelessness.
Eligible households must be on public assistance and must be homeless, at risk of homelessness (because of domestic violence, facing eviction, extreme hazardous conditions, etc.), or currently be receiving another supplement provided by the local district. The program would be phased in over five years, with 14,000 households eligible statewide each year until the program is fully phased in.
Counties that have existing supplement programs would continue such programs until all recipients are transferred to HSS, starting in the second year. The first year would prioritize those who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Assembly's budget will provide $40 million for SFY 2017-18, with $10 million to be used as advance payment to counties.
For individuals and families in need of permanent housing and supportive services due to circumstances such as mental illness or substance use disorder, the Assembly has allocated $1 billion in funding for the creation of 6,000 supportive housing units.
The budget also provides $19.4 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding, including restoration for the following programs:
The proposal also includes a restoration of $1.5 million for the Disability Advocacy Program.
The Assembly's budget proposal also restores $39 million to local districts of Social Services statewide for Foster Care Block Grant maintenance payments, which allow communities to provide child welfare services, including foster care wraparound services, prevention and residential services, and $23 million of Foster Care Block Grant funds to support tuition costs for New York City youth in residential school facilities. The Assembly also restores $27 million of Federal Title XX funds that counties use for an array of human services programs, including Adult Protective Services, childcare, and senior centers.
Also included in the proposal are expansions to runaway and homeless youth services including measures that would raise the age of eligibility and increase the time period for which a youth could receive services.
The budget proposal also allocates funds for important family support programs including:
The budget includes $1 million for Veterans Treatment Courts, which are specialized courts for veterans facing criminal charges that provide an enhanced level of services and can help to prevent veterans with mental health issues from being inappropriately incarcerated. Rather than continuing to revolve through the criminal justice system, veterans are given the treatment and tools they need to be successful.
The Assembly also restores $675,000 in funding for various veterans programs.