December 11, 2023
On Monday, December 11, 2023, Policy and Advocacy Associates Juan Diaz, Jenny Veloz, and Caitlyn Passaretti along with Associate Executive Director of Policy and Advocacy Alice Bufkin provided testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Finance regarding the Mayor’s November Budget Modification. On behalf of CCC, the testimony highlights the fact that the budget cuts will have a devastating impact on children and family, impacting crucial city services that many rely on to get by, influencing financial stability. The testimony ultimately asks that the City and City Council reject these cuts. Additionally, CCC provides recommendations to improve services for families and where funding must be maintained.
Since 1944, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York has served as an independent, multi- issue child advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring every New York child is healthy, housed, educated, and safe. 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 the wellbeing of New York’s children, families, and communities.
We would like to thank Chair Brannan and all the members of the Finance Committee for holding this hearing on the November Budget Modification. Critical programs for children, families, and communities are facing budget reductions of historic magnitude in this budget adjustment, including over $7.5 billion in cuts to City Tax Levy funding ($1.7 billion in reductions in the current FY24 fiscal year and $1.9 billion in each of the outyears FY25-FY27). Concerningly, proposed cuts in the November Budget Modification represent only one third of a 15% reduction anticipated as part of the Mayor’s release of the Preliminary and Executive Budgets for FY25.
The November Budget Modification proposes a devastating future for New York’s children and families, and CCC calls on city leaders to fully reject these cuts and instead ensure children and families have the services and supports they need to thrive. Make no mistake: the well-being of New York City’s children and families is central to the City’s economic recovery and the health of the city as a whole.
Below we outline areas of particular concern within the November proposal.
The Department of Education (DOE) is facing a sweeping array of cuts in the November Budget Modification, including nearly $550 million this year (FY24) and $600 million in outyears. If additional cuts occur in the Preliminary and Executive Budgets, the extent of DOE cuts could reach $2.1 billion.
The November Modification’s proposed cuts to the early care and education system are particularly devastating. These reductions include a $25 million cut to staffing in FY24, as well as a cut of $120 million cut to services in the outyears. These cuts could lead to the loss of between 6,000 and 10,000 slots in Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs, and they come at a time when data analysis reveals 80 percent of New York City families cannot afford care for children under five.
The maps provided below illustrate the distribution of children under five enrolled in DOE-contracted seats during the 2021-22 school year, alongside available open seats within the same period. These maps suggest a probable reduction in seat availability across existing services in these communities. The scale of these cuts within the early care and education system could have devastating consequences for families.
Quality early care and education serve as crucial cornerstones for a child’s development and preparedness for school. The proposed cuts threaten to strip families of affordable and dependable care choices, worsening socio-economic disparities while impeding children’s educational and developmental prospects.
The DOE is facing significant cuts in other crucial areas, including the elimination of 432 vacant non- classroom positions; reductions to Community Schools totaling $10 million in FY24 and $8 million in outyears; and $60 million from school food.
These cuts are on top of reductions already taken last fiscal year, as well as the anticipated loss of approximately $1 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds that have been used to support critical programs such 3-K, preschool special education, Summer Rising, 450 school social workers, community schools, school nurses, restorative justice, 60 school psychologists, 75 coordinators working in homeless shelters, bilingual staff, translation and interpretation, dyslexia and literacy initiatives, and more. While the federal fiscal relief funding will run out in June, the need for these supports will continue. Unless elected officials act, we are at risk of seeing cuts to each of these programs—cuts that are on top of the cuts laid out in the November Plan. The social emotional wellbeing and academic preparedness and success of children is at risk as the result of these cuts.
Afterschool and Summer
Young people across the city are continuously calling for more afterschool programs and community supports. Yet the cuts proposed in the November Modification promise sweeping cuts to some of the programs and services most essential to fostering youth opportunity and success.
COMPASS Afterschool programs are facing a $1.5 million cut in FY24, and a $6.9 million cut in the outyears. This will result in a loss of over 3,500 seats. As youth and families try to rebuild from the pandemic, our city’s young people require opportunities to grow and connect with peers in ways that advance their social, emotional, and physical development as well as their academic preparedness and success. Programs like COMPASS are vital lifelines for countless youth individuals, offering crucial support, mentorship, educational opportunities, and a safe space for personal growth and development. Reductions in these programs would disproportionately impact low-income youth and families who rely on these services for their children’s growth and safety and as vital resources for working caregivers.
Reductions are also likely to hit hardest in communities where children, youth and families were hardest hit by the socio-economic ramifications of the pandemic.
CCC is also deeply concerned about the impact of funding cuts on summer programs, including $19.6 million from the Summer Rising Program in FY25 (which commences July 1st, 2024) and outyears. As a result, this program will be shortened to 4 days a week for middle schoolers. Additionally, while not connected to the November Mod, federal funding for the DOE portion of Summer Rising will expire, resulting in an even larger funding gap. Youth deserve joy, fun, and positive youth development programming year-round, and we urge city leaders to reverse cuts that threaten access to these supports.
Additionally, the November Modification cuts $20.5 million in unallocated funding from DYCD, which is projected to impact the Advance and Earn Expansion, Summer Youth Employment Program MetroCards, the Precision Employment Initiative, and the Reading Initiative.
Libraries and Parks
Another major victim of the November cuts are libraries, which are slated to lose over $21.7 million in FY24 and over $20 million in the outyears.1 These cuts have already resulted in New York’s libraries closing on Sundays to accommodate the loss of funding. Libraries serve as crucial community hubs enabling New Yorkers to access the internet and computers, engage in group classes, participate in community activities, and more. They are also an important site for youth to spend time after school and on weekends.
New York City parks also face substantial losses from the November modification, jeopardizing crucial green spaces and recreational areas that serve as sanctuaries for New Yorkers. These cuts will result in a total loss of 1.3 million hours a year of cleaning, care, and maintenance of parks, as well as limiting regular cleaning and service to many areas to just 1-3 times a week. Communities will face overflowing garbage and unusable bathrooms as a result of hiring freezes and staffing losses. Parks are invaluable resources that foster physical and mental health, and New Yorkers deserve cleanliness, consistent maintenance, and safety measures to ensure they remain safe havens for children and families to enjoy.
Services for Justice-Involved Youth
The November Budget Modification also threatens crucial services for justice-involved youth. Close to Home, which allows youth sentenced for crimes to remain closer to families and communities while receiving therapeutic services, is facing a $6.7 million cut. Raise the Age programming, which provides wrap-around services, alternatives to detention/incarceration programming, and other rehabilitation services, is facing a $2 million cut. Furthermore, a $1.6 million cut for prevention re-estimates will result in fewer resources to support families experiencing child welfare involvement or youth justice system interaction. The November Mod also cuts $5.4 million for the Office of Neighborhood Safety in the outyears, causing a reduction to legal services, recreational events, youth service coordination and technical assistance typically offered from the Office. This is on top of $1 million in cuts in FY24-FY27 to Arches, a transformative mentoring program, as well as $2.2 million in FY24 and $2.6 million in outyears to Next STEPS. Next STEPS is a preventative program intended to help youth avoid criminal activity and reengage with education, work and community. Both programs offered mentorship and were successful in supporting young people. As such, these cuts will be incredibly harmful to the youth who rely on these programs.
Rather than slashing resources for justice-involved youth, our city should be investing in proven, cost- effective prevention programs, diversion programs, and alternatives to detention/incarceration programs.
CCC is deeply concerned about the ongoing impact of previous funding reductions to New York’s most important social services agencies, as well as the threat of additional cuts in the Preliminary and Executive Budget. Data from the State Comptroller makes clear the harms that cuts and staffing reductions have had on the city’s ability to serve New Yorkers. According to the 2023 Mayor Management Report (MMR), 20% fewer people are working in DHS and 18% fewer in DYCD as compared to the start of 2020, and HRA’s cash assistance timeliness rate has fallen from 92% in January 2020 to 13% in August 2023. Additionally, the MMR indicates households receiving SNAP increased between FY22 and FY23, yet timeliness of SNAP benefit receipt dramatically decreased from 60.1% to 39.7% during that same period.2
Staff shortages and vacancies at HPD, DHS, DSS, and HRA will continue to undermine the ability of city agencies to provide families with timely and life-saving housing, food, and social supports. We therefore urge city leaders to exempt DSS, HRA, DHS, and HPD from the Mayor’s 15% PEG and hiring freeze, and instead prioritize the filling of open city agency staff lines. Additional budget cuts will further exacerbate the waiting time to access emergency prevention in low-income communities, increasing the likelihood of shelter entrance. We also urge city leaders to reject cuts to non-profit human services, homelessness prevention, and shelter services.
The City should instead focus on implementing CityFHEPS expansion, which would remove administrative and eligibility barriers and expedite access to housing support for families in the community and in shelters. Moreover, the City should improve technology for public benefits (cash aid, food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, childcare) applications and Access HRA by removing repetitive documentation and questions, by expediting access, and by reducing red tape across benefits. Timely access to benefits will bring greater stability to families and bring resources to households that will be spent in the local economy.
We also recommend the city explore budget-neutral solutions to improve access to affordable housing:
Lease-up of Affordable Housing/Housing Connect 2.0: Over the past several years, HPD-financed affordable housing buildings have experienced much longer time frames to get the buildings fully leased up with tenants. It can regularly take upwards of a year, despite the overwhelming need and substantial numbers of applicants. Recently, the City has announced helpful steps to expedite—such as moving to a back-end audit for income verification—but more is needed. We recommend:
Open up city-funded supportive housing, NYC 15/15, to domestic violence survivors and their children: Supportive housing is one of the safest and most cost-effective housing solutions for survivors of domestic violence. Yet, unlike state programs, survivors are not an eligible population for NYC 15/15.
The choices made today will have an immediate impact on child, family, and community wellbeing. Should the cuts we have discussed stand, and future cuts in these areas proceed, the wellbeing of children, youth, families, and communities will be in grave jeopardy and the City’s economic stability and recovery will also be at risk. We urge the City administration to prioritize investments in children, youth and families and we look forward to continuing to partner with the City Council and our direct service, advocacy, and community partners to keep the focus on child, family and community needs as the budget process unfolds.