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Statement from Citizens’ Committee for Children on Governor Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State Address


January 11, 2021

Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) published its Child and Family Well-being in New York State: Ranking Risk Across 62 Counties to illustrate the depth of needs – poverty, housing insecurity, poor health, education and youth and community outcomes – families and children face throughout the State that require coordinated attention to ensure a full recovery from our current crises.

CCC assessed Governor Cuomo’s State of the State with these needs in mind and we were encouraged that the Governor’s address drew attention to key steps that must be taken to help New York families recover – with a focus on vaccine distribution, telehealth access, housing affordability, and the role of child care and child tax credits.

We strongly support ramping up vaccination efforts and ensuring they are equitably distributed among New Yorkers. These steps are critical for combatting the disproportionate impact this pandemic has had on immigrants and communities of color, and essential for helping our state recover.

  • We applaud the proposal to expand access to telehealth for all and further tackle the digital divide and broadband affordability. COVID-19 exacerbated existing inequities in access to care, and a thoughtful approach to maintaining current flexibilities and expanding access to telehealth services is essential for reaching children and families that have been left behind.
  • We support the plan to convert newly vacant commercial real estate into affordable and supportive housing, as the economic fallout from COVID-19 continues to grow New York’s housing crisis.
  • We were pleased to hear the Governor acknowledge the lack of access to affordable child care during the pandemic, and we are eager to review more detailed plans on how to reduce the burden of parent copays for childcare and enact recommendations from the Child Care Availability Task Force.

We look forward to working with the Governor and State Legislature to advance these priorities, and we urge his administration and State Legislature to go farther and act in other areas critical to child and family well-being. We are hopeful that the Governor’s future scheduled addresses and the Executive Budget prioritize education, primary and behavioral health care, child welfare prevention, youth justice reform and rent subsidies among other key areas.

Counties are desperate for new education aid, community school funding, and youth service investments to address the increased costs and academic challenges of a fully remote school year and to support students who have experienced profound learning loss during the pandemic.

  • As sharp declines in access to basic preventive and primary care for children have occurred, a comprehensive and coordinated effort to reach children with developmental, medical, dental, and behavioral health supports is critical to put our youngest back on the path to healthy development.
  • As illness, loss of life, economic and housing precarity, disruption in school and heightened social isolation have dramatically heightened depression, anxiety and overall behavioral health needs of children and adolescents, bold planning and robust investment are needed in children’s behavioral health so that childhood trauma can be overcome.
  • As child welfare prevention services have been critical to ensure family stability and child safety, protection of state investments in these funds will be necessary to continue to keep families together, children out of foster care, as well as support youth involved child welfare, court and justice systems.
  • As the state’s housing crisis continues to worsen and the eviction moratorium will eventually be lifted, short-term and long-term rent assistance will be critical to prevent a surge in family homelessness for children and families across the state.

Finally, there is no mistake that New York’s fiscal situation is dire and greater federal stimulus is desperately needed for New York State, state counties, municipalities and residents. That said, it is also critical, as we enter the state budget and legislative session, that tax policy and revenue options are aggressively pursued. The Governor and State Legislature must prevent austerity measures that exacerbate the harm already experienced by New York’s children and families and would delay the state’s economic recovery. The priorities advanced in the coming weeks and months must put children and families front and center, their well-being and the state’s recovery demand nothing less.

 

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