Speak out against Cuomo’s Kid Sanction Bill

One of the provisions in the Governor’s proposal concerns something called “full family sanctions.” When a someone in a family receiving welfare is thought to have broken a rule, they receive sanctions – i.e., a reduction in their welfare grant. Currently, household containing a sanctioned individual has their welfare grant reduced only by the amount that one person in that household would receive. For example, a family of three people with a sanctioned member receives a welfare grant equal in amount to that of a family of two.

Under current law, the children in sanctioned families continue to have their basic needs met. Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal changes this law, eliminating the entire family’s welfare grant.

The upshot of this change is that tens of thousands of children in sanctioned families will no longer continue to have their basic needs met. Not only will they lose their housing, child care and access to food stamps, but research suggests that they will also be at greater risk of educational failure, health problems, and foster care involvement.

You can speak out against this provision!

Reach out to your NYS Assembly representative and tell them to move against these child sanctions! Pay particular attention to the members of the Social Services Committee.

Check back early next week for model language and talking points that you can use in a letter, email or phone call!

In the mean time, for more information about this, check out the Citizen’s Committee for Children’s Statement about the Governor’s Proposal:

“To help close a $10 billion budget deficit, Governor Cuomo’s budget shifts traditional state supports to struggling counties and reduces spending on a wide-array of services and programs for children and youth that have already been proven effective at producing positive outcomes and preventing more costly interventions”


Teach them to swim…

I just read one of the best blog articles that I’ve read in quite awhile: The Feb. 10  ECE Policy Works blog about child poverty as it relates to early education. The blog featured a TEDx video about Baby’s Space, a child development program in Minneapolis that uses child development programming as a framework for building resilience in low-income infants and toddlers.

What made this blog post so powerful was that it recognized the interrelationship between three key factors: Poverty, Resilience, and Early Development. Recent census data illuminated just how much of a crisis we are in: There are millions more children living in poverty today than even ten years ago. Of the more than 15 million children in poverty in 2009, almost half lived in extreme poverty ($10,974 for a family of four).

In response, both ECE Policy Works and Baby’s Space emphasize the importance of helping every child build a strong developmental foundation as a buffer against the vicissitudes of life — the challenges of poverty.  Terrie Rose, the Founder of Baby’s Space, uses the powerful metaphor of pulling babies from a river to describe many of our current anti-poverty responses. Our juvenile justice systems, alternative education programs for students who have dropped out of school, welfare laws for teen parents — these laws are the functional equivalent of standing down-shore, dragging from the water, children who are already drowning in the river of poverty.

Instead, we need to move up-shore. We need to get to children and young people before they start drowning and give them the tools they need to learn to swim to shore.  Better yet, to build boats boats so they can help their peers and community members get to shore. Policies that support access to things like quality early education, doctors, safe and stable housing, opportunities to engage with community… these policies ensure tat young people will never drown in the river of poverty.

Governor’s proposals balance budget on the backs of children

The Resilience Advocacy Project (RAP) is highly concerned that the impact of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget proposals will be to undermine the development of low-income children and youth. In order to close the State’s $10 million gap, Governor Cuomo plans to cut spending on vital programs and services that support our most vulnerable young people.

Among the most disturbing:

  • $2.8 billion cut to School Aid: New York City is facing a $1.4 billion funding reduction and will be forced to make choices between closing schools, laying off teachers, increasing class sizes, reducing classroom resources like school books and desks, and eliminating educational supports like tutoring and transportation.

Says Billie Easton, Executive Director of Alliance for Quality Education:

Governor Cuomo’s budget pulls the rug out on children’s education by cutting literacy programs, career and technical education, college prep, pre-K, arts, music, sports, tutoring, guidance counselors and school librarians. [This budget’s] cuts to our kids’ schools are the largest in history. If they are adopted, the damage to students will be permanent because children do not get a second chance. Continue reading

Cuomo’s Fiscal Policy Proposals: Favoring the Wealthy, Hurting Low-Income New Yorkers and Schools

At the recent state of the state address, newly elected governor Andrew Cuomo outlined an emergency financial plan to curb the New York State debt crisis. One major component of the plan is a freeze on taxes, preventing increases in personal or corporate income tax. This plan fails to acknowledge that the current state tax structure is implicitly unfair—burdening the lowest earning families with the greatest share of their income towards local and state taxes. While families making between $16,000 and $33,000 pay 10% of their income to local and state taxes, families making over $633,000 pay only 7.2%. Part of this disparity can be attributed to the fact the consumer purchases subject to the regressive, universal sales tax make up a greater portion of expenditures among middle and lower income families than wealthier families.

In 2009, advocates won a temporary income tax surcharge that created two new progressive brackets for income taxes – 7.85% on income between $300K and $500K and 8.97% on income over $500K. Yet, this temporary change is set to expire in 2011, stopping the progressive income tax bracket at incomes over $300K. It is essential that these top rate brackets stay in place to more fairly distribute the tax burden. This new structure also generates a substantial amount of revenue ($3- $5 billion a year).

As of now, the top 1% of wage earners in New York State control 35% of the state’s income, leading the nation in income inequality. This is even more drastic in New York City, where the top 1% controls almost half of the city’s total income. This inequity is partially explained in the disproportionate emphasis on sales and income tax over taxes on business; in 2010, personal income taxes raised $34.8 billion; sales and excise taxes raised $12.2 billion; and corporate and business profits taxes raised only $6.6 billion.

Cuomo continues to pander to these top earning corporations, avoiding tax policies that could alleviate debt by targeting New Yorkers with money to spare. Taxes on bonuses or moving stocks could garner millions of dollars, but Cuomo’s fiscal agenda clearly aligns with the priorities of big business and disregards the unjust repercussions for New York’s poorest populations.

Another troubling element of Cuomo’s fiscals plan is a state spending cap. As seen in places like Colorado, such a cap results in detrimental repercussions for state funded programs like public education. Colorado dropped from 35th in the nation to 49th on K-12 spending after their implementation of a spending cap in 1992. A similar limitation on education spending, particularly for New York City, will inevitably hurt the quality and effectiveness of an already ailing public school system.

As is often the case in a time of financial crisis, politicians like Cuomo tighten budgets in ways that effect services for citizens the most in need while protecting the interests of those at the top. The implications of this new fiscal policy for New York are clearly slanted in favor of businesses and corporations comprised of the state’s wealthiest individuals, leaving many lower-income working New Yorkers unfairly burdened while public services like schools flounder.

-Cait Gillies, Resilience Advocacy Project

Source: New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, Ron Deutsch
For more information about Cuomo’s agenda and upcoming advocacy opportunities:

News Update: Recent Interesting Articles and Reports

Here are some recently published interesting articles and reports to check out.



Study shows number of hungry in NYC increased in 2010, recommends policy improvements

The New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH) revealed that demand at NYC food pantries and soup kitchens increased by 6.8% in 2010 after already going up by 20.8% in 2009. The information was in a survey titled “Hungry New Yorkers Barely Hang On,” which further showed that 51.4% of NYC soup kitchens and pantries did not have sufficient resources to meet this high demand. The Huffington Post quoted Joel Berg of the NYCCAH stating:

“No one is celebrating that in the richest city in the history of the world, with 58 billionaires, half of the charitable organizations have to turn people away.”

The NYCCAH made several policy recommendations for the federal, state, and city government in order to reduce these high levels of hunger, and make already existing programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (previously the Food Stamp Program) more effective.

Federal recommendations include:

  • Making school breakfasts standard in public schools;
  • Funding universal school lunches (As discussed in the previous blog post, the recent passage of the Child Nutrition Bill has made significant steps toward this achievement);
  • Expanding number of children who are eligible for free/reduced price lunch programs; and
  • Avoiding cutting funds from needed programs like SNAP to fund alternative efforts.

New York State recommendations include:

  • Ensuring access to the Women, Infants, and Children Program site in every low-income neighborhood; and
  • Increasing state funding for outreach efforts, breast-feeding promotion, and peer counseling in order to support early childhood health and wellbeing.

New York City recommendations include:

  • Expanding the Breakfast in the Classroom program and mandate that it be used during instructional time;
  • Continuing and expanding the universal school lunch program; and
  • Increasing outreach on the Women, Infants, and Children program and summer meals.

If these suggestions are taken seriously, the dire problem of hunger in New York can begin to be alleviated, particularly for youth. As Berg states, “the only reason we’re not experiencing a full-blown catastrophe” is because of the implementation of government programs. In order to diminish hunger further, these programs must be examined, evaluated and improved. To read the report in full, please click here.

Child Nutrition Bill passed to expand subsidized meals, improve nutrition in school lunches

The Child Nutrition Bill passed through Congress Dec. 2 and was signed by Obama Dec. 13, making 115,000 more children eligible for subsidized meals and providing more nutritious school lunch options. According to Good Magazine, the bill determines the reimbursement rate for school lunches, what food can be sold in vending machines, and whether trans fats can be banned all together. It raises standards for school nutrition, requiring schools to serve more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

Good Magazine reporter Nikhil Swaminathan reported that in that past,

“kids who [ate] lunches served by their schools [were] almost 60% more likely to be overweight or obese when compared to children who [brought] their lunch from home.”

Unhealthy school lunches consisted of, for example, a fried chicken patty, white roll, canned green beans, whole milk, and a package of snack cakes. Now, they may include a barbecued chicken patty, whole grain roll, locally grown carrots, one percent milk, and sliced apples, according to the New York Times.

In order to help cover the cost of these higher quality meals, the bill provides for an increase in federal reimbursement for school lunches for the first time in 30 years. Prior to this new legislation, schools were reimbursed up to $2.68 per school lunch; now, it will be increased by six cents, to $2.74.

Although the bill excellently contributes to enhancing America’s children’s wellbeing, and increases health for particularly low-income youth, its source of funding is a major drawback. About half of its $4.5 billion cost is financed by a cut in the federal food stamp program, now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), starting a few years from now.  If the goal of policy is to provide adequate meals and improve the health of struggling people, creating one beneficial program at the expense of another seems ineffective. Multiple programs are needed to combat hunger, as so many people are suffering from food insecurity nationwide. The aim of the Child Nutrition Bill is positive, and its provisions have great potential to help youth in need. However, the source of funding should not be stemming from another greatly needed food-assistance program.

Homeless population in great need, but funds for services being cut

According to the Queens Courier, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) announced Code Blue procedures would take effect at 8 p.m. Dec. 7, and continue until 8 a.m. the next morning on Dec. 8. This means that because the weather prediction was of a temperature or wind chill below 20 degrees, the DHS doubled both its outreach vans and personnel that night to protect unsheltered people from death. These outreach teams assess the health of homeless individuals and evaluate their symptoms of cold weather distress, such as hypothermia and frostbite, providing help when needed.

Similarly, the Bronx Times reported on Nov. 22 that the Coalition for the Homeless’ food vans have been feeding more than 900 homeless New Yorkers each night in the Bronx and Manhattan. Over the last year, the demand for NYC’s food pantries and kitchens has increased by nearly 7%.  Clearly, New York families are in desperate need of assistance, and this need is only deepening as winter sets in.

These examples highlight substantial programs that New York’s homeless population is in dire need of. But with budget cuts reducing funds for homeless services, as mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, it is likely that these programs will face huge funding losses in the upcoming months.

The Gotham Gazette reported that the budget cuts are part of an attempt to close a $3.3 billion budget hole next fiscal year. The Bloomberg administration proposed nearly $1.6 billion in new cuts last month, with nearly $19 million of which being taken from the Department of Homeless Services over the next 18 months. With these cuts, the department will have less ability to provide the kind of outreach that was used the other night to ensure that homeless individuals did not die in the cold. Between 2005 and 2010, the shelter population increased by nearly 9%. Currently, 18.7% of NYC residents live under the federal measure of poverty. It is not the time to greatly reduce the budget for services that New York’s most suffering individuals are in critical need of.

For more on information on the budget cuts, click here.

City puts more at risk by cutting funds for homeless youth

Due to city and state budget cuts, the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) will be cutting its Runaway and Homeless Youth Services expenditures by $969,407 in the current fiscal year, and by another $700,000 in FY12. Other reductions by the DYCD in services for homeless youth include:

  • Street Outreach Services will be cut by 50% in FY11 and eliminated in FY12;
  • Drop-In Centers, funded by the City Council, will be reduced by 50% in FY11; and
  • The DYCD’s Borough-based Drop-In Centers in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens will be reduced by 1/3 in FY11 and 23% in FY12. The Staten Island Drop-In Center will be cut by 10% in FY12.

Homeless LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) youth, who make up 40% of the homeless youth population, will be disproportionately affected by these cuts. The Ali Forney Center and the Bronx Pride Center, both of which provide supportive services for this population, are both losing 50% of the city funds that were allocated for their drop-in programs, totaling $185K of the $969K in cuts.

These cuts could be devastating. A 2008 census by the New York City Council indicated that about 3,800 youth experience homelessness in NYC, and there are only several hundred shelters and transitional beds available for these thousands of young people. Moreover, homeless LGBT youth often have a more difficult time staying in these shelters because they are often subjected to homophobic abuse. Drop-in and outreach centers are critical, and without these services many will not have the assistance needed to combat the struggles of living on the street.

These cuts are also being enacted despite research that indicates need for more drop-in centers and outreach efforts. In October 2009, Mayor Bloomberg appointed a 25-member commission to research how to better assist homeless LGBT youth and prevent future homelessness amongst this population. The commission’s report suggested adding 200 beds for LGBT youth, increasing drop-in center hours, extending particularly overnight hours, and expanding street outreach. Ironically, the city is now doing precisely the opposite of what their own commission recommended, making what could have been an effective effort to help NYC’s struggling youth completely go to waste. Hopefully these changes will not put more youth at risk, but it seems, undoubtedly, that they will.

Jobless benefits cut, focus on youth could reduce future unemployment

Nearly 100,000 New Yorkers, along with about two million other Americans, will no longer be receiving unemployment benefits due to Congress’s refusal to extend them. With the national unemployment rate currently at 9.6 percent, and New York City’s jobless rate at 9.2%, this will leave even more people struggling in the fight against poverty.

Not only will this affect jobless adults, but their families and children who rely on them. In Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, Georgetown professor Harry J. Holzer writes:

“Children growing up in poor households or with unemployed parents under great stress are at risk of worse performance in school and lower educational attainment; youth who are not able to find work at a critical early point in their careers will likely suffer elevated joblessness and lower earnings over time.”

Thus, this refusal to extend jobless benefits can have long-term affects on many children, hindering their potential for future success by leaving them in poverty. This perpetuates the cycle that many of these youth are already stuck in: they are unable to overcome the poverty they were born into without access to benefits and assistance needed for change.

Holzer states that in this weak economic environment, the government should undertake necessary expenditures, at least in the short-run, to provide supportive services for families in poverty and help create more jobs in the private and public sectors. In the long run, the government needs to invest in cost-effective strategies that improve education and earnings of low-income children and adults, in order to provide for a more successful future.

If education and jobs for low-income youth are enhanced, poor children are more likely to be successful in the future and overcome the poverty that many of them are currently stuck in. Although the adults who soon will be struggling without unemployment benefits are in need as well, focusing on education and career training programs for youth could prevent such high employment rates from developing in the future. When we no longer have a situation in which 9.2% of people are without work, jobless benefits will no longer be needed. This would create a win-win situation in which people are employed and the government’s debt is not increased.

For more information on the unemployment benefits cuts, click here.