May 17, 2002
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203

Ortiz Announces State Aid to Fight Hunger and Homelessness
Assemblyman Successful in Fight for Additional Dollars in State Budget

(New York, NY) Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, was pleased to announce the Assembly Majority's commitment to providing better nutrition for hungry children, families and seniors and additional support for the homeless. The final State budget agreement provides $24.4 million for emergency food programs, a $1.6 million increase over the Governor's original budget. This funding is sorely needed by communities affected by September 11, high unemployment, time limits on federal welfare, and overburdened food pantries. In addition, homeless shelter populations are serving record numbers around the State including thousands of children. The Assembly responded by adding over $5 million in new spending to support programs serving the homeless.

The downturn in the economy, including the ripple effects of the September 11th tragedy, inadequate incomes, unaffordable housing, and the shortage of supportive housing for the homeless have contributed to a dramatic growth in homelessness and hunger not seen since the 1980s, and have challenged the ability of State and local government, and service providers to respond.

Assemblyman Ortiz stated, "After the World Trade Center disaster, laid-off hotel and restaurant workers came to my office seeking help. Many of them are hardworking immigrants who are not eligible for most federal assistance programs such as Food Stamps. As we work to revitalize our economy and provide jobs, we also need to restore federal, State and City assistance for all families so they can stay in their homes and buy their own food. I am pleased that for the fourth year in a row we have targeted additional food assistance money for these programs."

The number of homeless families and single adults receiving shelter in NYC, more than 30,000, is at the highest level in history, and includes nearly 13,000 children. Officials in Long Island, Albany and other Upstate cities are reporting similar trends. In addition, surveys conducted a year ago estimate that close to 3 million New York State residents, 37% of whom are children and 25% are over 50, are served by emergency food providers annually. Since September 11th, NYC area food programs reported that 64% of new recipients are using these services for the first time ever. The programs in place to respond to these problems are being stretched beyond their limits, resulting in needy families being turned away by both shelter providers and food pantries. The City’s proposed budget cut of $7.7 million in funding for emergency food only exacerbates the problem.

The Assembly Majority has added funding to the Governor's budget over the last several years for homeless programs and a total of $53.6 million in new State funding for food assistance over the last four years. Ortiz has led the fight for anti-hunger initiatives in the Assembly and has repeatedly visited Washington to successfully lobby to restore Food Stamps assistance to immigrants and other families. Ortiz sponsored two public hearings, in NYC and Albany, on these problems earlier this year.

"We cannot improve our economy or society without healthy, educated and productive Americans. We cannot have productive, successful Americans unless they grow up with secure, permanent housing, proper nutrition and the ability to learn and develop to their full potential. Moving children from apartments to shelters and feeding them in soup kitchens is not the answer. How could any of us do our jobs under those conditions? Our President, our Congress, our Governor, our Mayor, our City Council must join us in providing a better life for these children."

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