Influential Assembly Committee Chairs Secure Restorations for Essential Services for Neediest New Yorkers

Leaders within the New York State Assembly ensure that programs serving New York’s most vulnerable were protected.
April 2, 2009
Assembly Children and Families Committee Chair William Scarborough, Assembly Labor Committee Chair Susan John and Assembly Social Services Committee Chair Keith Wright today announced that the 2009-2010 state budget provides critical resources for New York’s most vulnerable communities. Following Assembly passage of the budget earlier this week, the lawmakers said the legislation was aimed at helping the working poor, disadvantaged youth and the most vulnerable of New York survive from the crushing economic recession facing the State.

“It was important that this year’s budget reflect our commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of the children of New York State by providing families and caregivers with the resources they need. Despite the impact of the economic downturn on New York, it is essential that New York continue in our moral obligation to the health, safety and welfare. Children need to grow up in a stable, loving family environment and in the homes where that is not the case, we must provide the help that struggling families need,” said Scarborough.

Family and Youth Services

The passage of the 2009-2010 state budget will include significant investments to help New York’s Neediest families and disadvantaged youth with:

  • $403.9 million for child care of which, $356.3 million was carved out of the executive’s Flexible Fund for Family Services towards subsidies;
  • $36.7 million for the increase in market rate for child care providers;
  • $97 million from the federal stimulus for child care, which will be spent over two years; and
  • $10.9 million for facilitated enrollment demonstration projects for child care in New York City, the Capital Region, and Monroe County.

Early Care and Learning Council Executive Director Carol Saginaw said “There is a critical need in NYS for child care subsidy funding for low-income families, which is growing with the economic downturn. We greatly appreciate the efforts of Assembly Member William Scarborough and others in the Legislature to recognize that need and to take action in this budget.”

To keep children safe, the spending plan makes it less costly for child care providers to check the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment by rejecting the executive’s proposed $25 fee. And the final budget rejects the executive’s proposal to eliminate state funding for Community Optional Preventive Services (COPS), restoring $29 million to an initiative that preserves family stability and prevents troubled youth from sliding into foster care or Juvenile justice.

New York State and local taxpayers will save $11.2 million in SFY 2009-2010 by closing down or downsizing 11 youth facilities. The legislature with the elimination of these empty facilities made a commitment to invest $10.752 million into alternatives to detention/residential placement and $5 million for reinvestment in community based alternatives to juvenile detention.

“The tide has come in on reform of our juvenile justice system; for too long we have maintained the pipeline to the adult prison system” said Scarborough. “Maintaining these underutilized and empty facilities in good times made no sense. Keeping them open during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression would be inexcusable. This investment is a down payment for reform.”

The budget restores $24 million for critical youth prevention programs including Youth Development Delinquency Prevention (YDDP), Special Delinquency Prevention Program (SDPP) and Runaway and Homeless Youth services. The legislature also rejected the executive proposal to create a Youth Programs Block Grant which could have decimated youth programs across this state. Keeping young people out of the state’s juvenile facilities is the most cost-effective way to reduce the state’s long term debt. The cost of housing a youth within a detention facility is approximately $140,000 to $200,000 per bed over a year. It is fiscally sound to invest in prevention programs.

Scarborough said “During economic downturns, families are squeezed financially and emotionally. Families on the verge of entering the child welfare system are even more susceptible to these pressures and require additional help. The restoration of cuts to preventive foster care contracts, with an investment of $23.7 million in General and TANF funds will ensure that families are kept together with the help they need.”

The legislature restores cuts to the Advantage after school program with an allocation of $30.5 million in the 2009-2010 budget. This investment in after school programs will allow young people to access valuable services that keep youth engaged and provides for positive outcomes. “Our leaders faced many difficult decisions in allocating next year’s budget but they put the needs of working families first by investing in high quality daily after-school programs that help parents keep their jobs. Parents across the state will be encouraged by this sign of support.” Said Lucy N. Friedman, President, The After-School Corporation (TASC)

Labor and Social Services

Another cost saving program for the state, Bridges to Health, was restored by the legislature with an investment of $14.6 million. This program will allow the state to keep medically fragile foster care youth in the community rather than place them into costly state institutions.

New Alternatives for Children Executive Director Arlene Goldsmith, said “The restoration of funding for the Bridges to Health Program will allow agencies like New Alternatives for Children to continue providing critical child welfare services to some of New York’s most vulnerable children in foster care. We are incredibly grateful to the Governor, the Senate, and The Assembly for their realization that this program not only improves the lives of thousands of children by shortening their time in the foster care system and helping them to achieve permanency in the community, but also by providing them with opportunities to reach their full potential.”

The legislature also fully restores $2.1 million for the New York/New York III housing program for aging out foster care youth.

“During this economic crisis, it’s important that we continue to provide critical housing programs to youth who age out of foster care” said Chair of the Assembly Sub-Committee on Foster Care Naomi Rivera,. This program will ensure that kids leaving the foster care system will not end up in homeless shelters, or worse in the Juvenile Justice System.”

President Obama during his speech to a joint session of Congress, called for a renewed commitment and investment into the American community. The legislature with an investment of $35 million for the Summer Youth Employment Program has made that commitment a reality. This summer, young people across the state will be able to gain employment that will allow them to help revitalize our economy while acquiring essential work experience. During times of economic crisis, disadvantaged youth are extremely at risk of become a burden to the state through homelessness and criminal activities.

“Eliminating the Summer Youth Employment Program would have been detrimental to the many teens who have utilized this program to learn valuable life and employment skills, perform jobs that greatly impact their communities, and supplement their family incomes,” said John. “I am pleased to join my colleagues ensuring that this valuable program is continued for our families.”

“With rising unemployment and a looming budget deficit, New York State needs to act swiftly to ensure that our State's social service safety net is well maintained and strong enough to deal with the fallout of the current recession. I believe that the New York State Assembly has taken the leading role in doing just that, taking steps to protect the most vulnerable of our society and foster an environment which allows for the increased economic security of our working families. In times of financial hardship, most states cut benefits to the needy, but here in New York we know all too well what a financial downturn means for our communities. This year, the State Assembly Social Services Committee has set priorities to raise the public assistance grant, increase access to and funding of food stamp programs, and create job opportunities via workforce development programs, thus helping to mitigate the unfortunate outcomes of this downturn”, said Wright.

“Now more than ever, our struggling families are depending on a helping hand,” concluded Scarborough. “In this economy we can’t pull the rug out from under them. We need to ensure the neediest families have the resources they need to get by. This budget does that.”