April 11, 2023
By: Elysia Murphy and Laura Jankstrom
As our city continues to recover in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless families are still struggling to put food on the table, secure and keep permanent housing, and get the behavioral health resources, child care, and youth services they need. CCC’s City Budget priorities for FY 2024 outline a series of actions that our city leaders can take to continue to support the recovery of children, youth and families and ensure that all NYC communities have access to the supports and services that help young children, adolescents and their families thrive.
As we prepare for the release of the Executive Budget later this month, we are deeply concerned about the impact that proposed cuts will have on vital programs. Just last week, Mayor Adams sent a letter to almost all city agencies ordering another 4% cut to their budgets to address budget needs related to labor costs, state budget cuts and the city’s migrant crisis.
CCC is advocating to reverse proposed vacancy reductions to social service agencies including the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Education and the Housing Preservation Department. We are also advocating for investments in the community-based non-profits with whom city agencies contract.
Fortunately, the City Council has stepped forward as vocal champions on many of the priorities we are advancing. In their budget response released last week, the Council voiced their opposition to agency cuts and outlined a series of recommendations aimed at addressing existing vacancies and supporting additional investments to ensure access to vital safety net benefits and services.
As City Budget season kicks into full gear, it will be crucial that we remain steadfast and actively engaged in efforts to call attention to the areas where investments must be protected or added in the FY 2024 budget.
Affordable housing in New York City is increasingly unattainable, and too many families are on the brink of eviction. As seen in our New York State Child and Family Well-being Index, in New York City, more than 20% of rental households spend at least half of their income on rent, and in many neighborhoods that rate increases to more than 30% of rental households. The Council prioritized efforts to support families facing homelessness, including by baselining CityFHEPS, funding shelter-based community coordinators, and enhancing funding for Runaway and Homeless Youth. We continue to advocate for restorations and baselining of $118.5 million for emergency rental arrears assistance and the elimination of the 90-day shelter stay rule, as well as requirements for a shelter stay history and housing court proceedings to qualify for City FHEPS.
Too many system-involved youth are funneled into the city’s shelter system once they reach adulthood. These young people need support to secure permanent housing without requiring a shelter stay to access housing vouchers. In the Runaway and Homeless Youth system, we are supporting efforts to make youth categorically eligible for CityFHEPS vouchers and to eliminate the 90 day shelter stay rule for youth who are involved with either the child welfare, youth justice or RHY system. We are also advocating to maintain funding for the 16 Housing Specialists brought on with federal stimulus funding.
We know from our conversations with parents, caregivers and child serving organizations that there is a need for greater access to early care and education (ECE) programs that fit the diverse and practical needs of families across the city. The Council’s response seeks to address many of the challenges faced by New York City parents in accessing publicly funded early care and education services, as highlighted in our recent parent survey. These proposals include investing an additional $15 million for a pilot program to convert 1,000 school-day, school-year 3K seats into full-day, year-round seats, and by providing an additional $46-million to enable community based providers to increase compensation for their staff. We stand with the Council in calling on the Adams administration to strengthen its outreach and marketing efforts to ensure more New York City families know about the infant-toddler, 3K and Pre-K program options available to them, and to decentralize the enrollment process so that community-based providers have the option to enroll families directly on-site.
As our advocacy continues, we continue working to make the case for the baselining of $50 million in funding to ensure all preschool special education students have access to the evaluations and services they need. Currently, up to 800 special education students are without a preschool slot and many who are in school lack the proper resources needed to thrive. This goes against the city’s commitment to ensure that a preschool special education seat is available for all children who need one. Furthermore, we continue to push for the baselining of $20 million for the Promise NYC program, which has granted access to child care to undocumented families across New York City and is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year. CCC believes that all families should have access to child care, regardless of immigration status.
In New York, the percentage of children who have anxiety or depression grew from 8.9% in 2016 to 10.9% in 2020, a 22.5% increase. Half of youth with major depressive episodes in the past year did not receive treatment, and death by suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth age 15-19 in our state. CCC greatly appreciates the Council’s commitment to respond to the heightened behavioral health needs of our city’s young people, including $5 million in funding for the Mental Health Continuum, a model for integrating a range of direct services to students with significant mental health needs in high needs schools partnered with hospital-based clinics. In addition, we were grateful to see the Council recognize the importance of school-based supports with their proposal to provide $28 million to expand access to school-based mental health clinics and invest $59 million in restorative justice coordinators and training.
As our advocacy continues, we will continue to voice our support for Council funding to maintain Mental Health initiatives serving children under five, court involved youth, LGBTQ youth, and other vulnerable populations. We also hope to see $3 million invested in the creation of a new Youth Mental Health initiative to provide flexible mental health services for youth programs run by CBOs, with a focus on out of school time.
CCC believes that investing in youth is investing in the future. Supporting young people through after school and summer programs and employment opportunities is one critical way to help them carve a path and reach their potential. CCC’s YouthAction members, along with their peers at YVote and CUNY’s Intergenerational Change Initiative, created the NYC Youth Agenda, which recommends that the city promote economic mobility for young people through year-round youth employment opportunities, among a host of other recommendations.
CCC has been advocating to create a path to universal and year-round youth services by establishing a 12-month youth service contract, as well as increasing rates for COMPASS and SONYC to set a wage floor of $21/hour for staff. We were pleased to see Council’s prioritizing investments in this area, supporting additional funding for universal after school programming as well as the expansion of funding for the Work, Learn Grow program, which strengthens work readiness skills and allows youth to explore career possibilities. The Council proposes a $22 million investment which would increase the program by 5,000 spots. In addition, the Council is advocating to allocate and baseline an additional $15 million for Community Schools and $34 million for Alternatives to Detention/Alternatives to Incarceration programs.
In the years prior to the pandemic, over 2.5 million New Yorkers experienced hardship in affording their grocery expenses along with other necessities such as housing, transportation, and child care. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges for our food system and sharpened existing inequities, leading to even greater food insecurity in many NYC communities. To combat this, CCC is advocating to increase and baseline HRA’s budget to support CBOs in benefits outreach and streamline benefits applications. In addition, we are championing a $59 million investment in the Community Food Connection, formerly known as the Emergency Food Assistance Program. In recognition of the crucial role that schools play in ensuring that children have access to healthy, affordable food, we are also supporting efforts to invest new Capital funding for the continued redesign of middle and high school cafeterias. All of these proposals have been supported by the Council in their March response. We are also supporting investments of an additional $37 million so that all schools can have sustained, flexible food and nutrition education funding.