Over $1 Billion in TANF Block Grant Funds Trapped in Budget Limbo

May 3, 2006. Groups call upon the Governor to adopt the legislature’s bi-partisan agreement on use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds. Joint release from New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, the Fiscal Policy Institute, the Hunger Action Network of New York State and the Empire Justice Center:

Advocates for Low-Income New Yorkers held a press conference today at the Legislative Office Building to urge Governor Pataki to stop playing politics with over $1 billion in federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant funds. The groups urged the Governor to agree to the funding allocations that the Senate and Assembly Human Services Conference Committee suggested in their bi-partisan proposal.

“We currently have no idea what will happen to over $1 billion in federal TANF monies if the Governor continues to dig in his heals and say that the budget is done,” complained Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness. “This budget is far from done. If we do not get some movement on TANF funds families and the organizations that serve them will start to feel the pain of this inaction.”

The TANF funds trapped in budget limbo are needed desperately to make sure that the Summer Youth Employment Program (providing summer employment opportunities to needy children across the state) can begin operation. The advocates also stated that over $400 million in Child Care subsidies and facilitated enrollment monies are also tied up in
this boondoggle.

“Child care is critical for working families, allowing them to do their jobs knowing that their children are safe and well-cared for. But without child care subsidy assistance, many low-income working parents will face the dilemma of either leaving their jobs and returning to welfare or using unlicensed, unregulated care that is potentially neither safe nor developmentally appropriate for their children,” stated Carol Saginaw, Executive Director of the NYS Child Care Coordinating Council.

The Legislature’s proposal also allocates $8.3 million of the TANF funding for childcare facilitated enrollment projects. “Childcare facilitated enrollment is helping thousands of average working parents pay for quality child care by allowing families earning up to 275% of poverty to apply at their worksites, community based organizations, and union halls during lunch time and on weekends. This will help working families across the state access the licensed, quality childcare they so desperately need,” stated Jim Cullen of the NYS Union Childcare Coalition.

Many programs, like the Disability Advocacy Program, Wheels for Work, Domestic Violence, and Food Pantry assistance programs are also in need of operational funding. “The Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) helps low income disabled New Yorkers get disability benefits while at the same time saving the state money by shifting folks from welfare to 100%
federally funded assistance. Without restoration of the $1 million in TANF funding the Legislature sought to direct to DAP, our programs will lose a substantial portion of their funding and will be forced to turn away people in need,” stated Kristin Brown, Director of Legislative Advocacy for the Empire Justice Center.

Karla Digirolamo, Chief Operating Officer, Unity House of Troy, Inc., discussed how the lack of TANF funds would impact her program, “Without the TANF dollars dedicated to domestic violence services, scores of women and children might be unable to find the safety and support they need to establish independent, safe lives. We know that thousands of women in our community live with this danger every day and that even with existing resources, we struggle to meet the needs they have. Any loss could undermine our ability to provide these essential services and could literally come at the cost of a lost life.”

“The $12 million in TANF funds is more than half of the state funding for over three thousand emergency food programs, which feed close to a million low-income New Yorkers each week. While state funding is a fraction of the overall cost of feeding our consumers, it has been invaluable in improving the nutritional value of the food packages. Many programs are already reporting a decline in government donations. The loss of TANF dollars would be a devastating blow to the effort to alleviate hunger in our state. We need the Governor to resolve this impasse rather than holding poor New Yorkers hostage to this power play,” stated Mark Dunlea, Associate Director of the Hunger Action Network.

New federal mandates, as a result of the reauthorization of welfare programs by Congress, will substantially increase the work participation rates in New York State.

“It has been estimated that New York could lose as much as $358 million in federal funds for failure to comply with the new federal work participation rules for public assistance recipients which take effect October 1, 2006. Funds for childcare, education, training, supportive services and transportation are critical to New York’s efforts to increase work participation rates. Governor Pataki cannot be allowed to play politics with these critical federal resources — particularly when it will be the next Administration that may have live with the funds lost as a consequence of these games,” stated Trudi Renwick, Senior Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute.

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