April 3, 2020
Especially during these trying times, it is critical to respond to the needs of New Yorkers and protect and invest in the health, human service, and educational systems that New Yorkers depend on. The COVID-19 pandemic is already having a devastating impact on children and families across the state, further exacerbating the barriers to well-being many families faced before the crisis
We thank Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature for their leadership in response to COVID-19, and urge the State to maximize federal stimulus dollars that can help to mitigate some of the most harmful state budget reductions proposed in January. We remain concerned, however, that the state budget does not go far enough to protect New Yorkers in light of this pandemic, and maintains cuts and cost-shifts that will hinder the ability of New York City and other localities to provide supports needed to get New Yorkers most at-risk through this unprecedented crisis.
Among the initiatives for which we are thankful and that will have a positive impact on children and families, the budget adopts recommendations to increase access to new children’s behavioral health services, including crisis intervention, family peer supports, and community psychiatric supports. The budget also creates a permanent right to sick leave, restores funds for Advantage Afterschool programs and passes long-awaited reforms to the State Central Register for Child Abuse and Maltreatment that will bring the state in line with other jurisdictions with fairer child welfare investigations that better protect families from economic insecurity. In addition, the budget transfers oversight of Adolescent Offender facilities from the Department of Corrections to the Office of Children and Family Services which can provide more age-appropriate services.
However, as past crises have taught us, we anticipate an increased need for not only health supports but also behavioral health supports and preventive services to mitigate trauma and mounting risks that compromise child safety and make families vulnerable to domestic violence. We are disappointed that the state budget includes devastating cuts to Medicaid, does not restore public health cuts that went into effect last year, and reduces state funding for child abuse and neglect prevention.
In the aftermath of this crisis, New Yorkers will rely on government programs to assist them as they re-enter the workforce, work to maintain safe and stable housing, continue to meet their health and behavioral health needs, and ensure their children have access to education and child care that prepares them for the future. Yet, the New York State budget makes no additional investments in child care and fails to fund statewide rental subsidies to prevent homelessness, while also putting at-risk services to families and children in NYC homeless shelters as a result of a reduction in State TANF funds. The budget also makes no new investments in education funding for the first time in six years, when we know our schools will be more important than ever in supporting the vulnerable student populations most-impacted by this crisis.
Finally, a number of provisions in the budget give the Governor authority to make budget reductions in the future. We know the repercussions of COVID-19 will be profound and long-lasting, but we must do everything possible to protect state investments in service delivery systems upon which New Yorkers rely, while maximizing federal stimulus funds to protect children and families from further losses.