NYC must invest in youth services, workforce, and opportunities

Testimony & Public Comments

March 22, 2024

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On March 22nd, Policy and Advocacy Associate Caitlyn Passaretti submitted testimony to the New York City Council FY’2025 Preliminary Budget Oversight Hearing hosted by the Children and Youth Committee. On behalf of CCC, the testimony explains the importance of investing in youth services, the workforce, and ensuring there are expansive opportunities for all youth regardless of housing or immigration status. Read more to learn more about CCC’s priorities.

Read the testimony below.

Testimony of Caitlyn Passaretti, Policy and Advocacy Associate

Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York

Submitted to the New York City Council FY’2025 Preliminary Budget Oversight Hearing

Children and Youth Services Committee

March 22nd, 2024

Since 1944, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York has served as an independent, multi-issue child advocacy organization. CCC does not accept or receive public resources, provide direct services, or represent a sector or workforce; our priority is improving outcomes for children and families through civic engagement, research, and advocacy. We document the facts, engage, and mobilize New Yorkers, and advocate for solutions to ensure that every New York child is healthy, housed, educated, and safe.  

We would like to thank Chair Stevens and all the members of the City Council Children and Youth Committee for holding today’s important hearing on the Mayor’s FY25 Preliminary Budget. Below we include recommendations for how our City can improve access to youth programming that is so essential to ensuring youth can access development and professional opportunities, economic supports, and community networks.   

Invest in Youth Services and the Youth Service Workforce 

 The scope of afterschool and youth services cuts facing New York City is staggering, and it is urgent that our city leaders protect these supports that are critical to the immediate and long-term wellbeing of New York city’s children and families. The November Budget Modification and Preliminary Budget include a baselined $6.9 million cut to COMPASS Afterschool, as well as a $19.6 million cut to Summer Rising. These cuts are devastating and will dramatically disrupt the lives of families across the city.   

 Access to free and affordable afterschool services has never been more important for New York families. Citywide, 80% of families cannot afford after school for their children, and across the city families pay up to 63% of their annual income on i The $6.9 million cut to COMPASS afterschool will result in a loss of over 3,500 seats for youth, preventing them from accessing community and positive youth development experiences. The $19.6 million cut to Summer Rising will reduce the program to only 4 days a week and eliminate field trips. Our youth deserve better – we urge you to restore $6.9 million to COMPASS Afterschool and $19.6 million to Summer Rising.  

 Our City must also address the operational issues plaguing the youth services system. Therefore, in addition to restoring funding, we join our partners in the Campaign for Children (C4C) in urging the city to implement the following recommendations to address operational challenges: 

  • Increase the cost-per-participant rates for COMPASS and SONYC to set a wage floor of no less than $22/hour for staff and ensure year-round contracting. 
  • Prioritize consumer-centered outreach and enrollment, including by enabling CBOs providing youth services to directly enroll children and youth onsite, and by taking immediate action to stand up community-rooted application and enrollment facilitators that prioritize expediting access to youth services (afterschool and summer programming) in partnership with CBOs 
  • Establish year-round, 12-month youth services and shift to a K-8 summer program model 
  • Pay youth service providers on time and catch up on payments owed 
  • Fully staff DYCD divisions responsible for invoicing and payment and make permanent the ability of youth service providers to batch multiple months of invoices.     
  • Release a new RFP for the SONYC and COMPASS contracts that covers the full and actual cost of care. 

 By restoring the cuts and addressing the current operational shortcomings, we can build a stronger youth services system and ensure all young people who need services are able to receive them. 

Support Immigrant Families in Need of Child Care 

 Promise NYC was initiated in December of 2022 to provide childcare assistance to low-income families with children whose immigration status makes them ineligible for other, federally-funded subsidized childcare. The City Council was instrumental in making this program happen. Last year, the City Council ensured that Promise NYC funding was restored, and we must ensure that this vital program is not eliminated. All parents want a safe, high-quality, and culturally responsive place for their children to learn, and Promise NYC provides this option for undocumented families. We strongly urge city leaders to restore and baseline $20 million for Promise NYC to ensure that immigrant families can access child care. 

Invest in Youth Employment 

Youth services provide essential opportunities, employment, and connections for young people in New 

York City. Youth programming helps to maintain relationships among peers and helps to keep families connected to support systems, and also provides financial opportunities and independence. CCC’s Keeping Track of New York City’s Children found that 62% of youth aged 18 to 24 reported a loss of employment income since March 2020, and nearly a quarter of youth aged 16-24 are out of school and out of work in New York City.ii This data shows too many young people facing barriers to accessing education, employment, and other community supports. 

Youth across the City have made clear that investing in youth services is the best pathway to achieving community wellbeing. A key way to do this is to ensure the successful Learning to Work program remains funded. This program provides support to over-age, under-credited students to help them earn a high school diploma and develop a postsecondary plan. City Leaders must preserve a $33 million cut to the Learning to Work program that will occur due to the impending expiration of COVID-19 stimulus funding. Losing this funding would be devastating for youth who rely on the support of this program.  

Invest in Runaway and Homeless Youth 

Numerous challenges currently face Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) in New York. The Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) is mainly responsible for supporting this population; however, it is not uncommon for RHY to also be involved with ACS, DHS, and HRA in the 

efforts to find housing or social services. We must ensure that Runaway and Homeless Youth have access to more beds and more support. Since youth do not have a right to shelter and DYCD does not have enough beds for young people (especially older youth), many young people are driven onto the streets or into dangerous living situations. We therefore urge the City to invest $5.6 million to create 100 additional beds: 60 beds for 16 to20-year-olds, and 40 beds for 21 to24-year-olds. This investment will provide safe, temporary housing for youth who otherwise would be without a stable option. 

 Furthermore, we also urge the city to invest $1.62 million to maintain funding for the 16 Peer Navigator positions in the DYCD-RHY System. The housing and youth services systems are complex and convoluted, and it is critical to have a trusted support person to offer advice, resources, and answers for young people.  

 Promote Community Safety and Wellbeing by Investing in Community Services and Resources 

 To promote community safety and wellbeing, we must invest in community services and resources. Unfortunately, the FY24 November Plan and the FY25 Preliminary Budget include cuts to probation programs that have proven to be successful in supporting re-entry and connecting young people to mentorship and services. Failing to provide robust reentry services or supportive probation programs will harm our youth and is counterintuitive to building safe communities. 

We need creative, non-carceral solutions to violence, and we urge the Mayor and the City Council to utilize the city budget to invest heavily in community programming, parks, housing, youth sports, employment, and behavioral health. CCC therefore recommends the following:  

  • Treat gun violence as a public health crisis by investing in transformative community programs, including expanding investment in Cure Violence, credible messenger programs, youth engagement programs and other community-rooted programs that employ a public health approach to community safety  
  • Restore the $17 million cut from nonprofit programs provided in NYC jails  
  • Restore the $1.6 million cut to the Arches program, a transformative mentorship program to support 16–24-year-olds, from both the November plan and Preliminary budget  
  • Restore $2.6 million cut from the Next Steps program from the November plan 
  • Close Rikers and ensure the City remains on track with the closure plan  
  • Redirect the funding from school policing into opportunities for young people in schools and communities 
  • Restore the $22 million cut for New York Public Libraries  

We also demand an end to the Quality-of-Life Violations policing initiative that began around March 2022 from the Mayor’s office and NYPD. To be clear, this is a new iteration of broken windows policing, a policy that we know does not work and further criminalizes Black and Brown New Yorkers. We are already seeing the impact of this policy with increasing arrests and detainment, specifically and disproportionately targeting Black New Yorkers. This policy should be immediately halted. This is a pivotal moment to shift how we approach community safety, and we must commit to resourcing systemically neglected communities and building support networks. 

Youth services and programs must be fully funded because young people deserve to live in a city where there are opportunities and resources for their growth, development, and joy. Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony.  

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