Assemblymember Deborah Glick and 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 federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant funds. The groups urged the Governor to adhere to the funding recommendations that the Senate and Assembly Human Services Conference Committee suggested in their bi-partisan proposal and to resubmit his budget to reflect that agreement.
Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick, Chair of the Assembly Social Services Committee stated that, “The Executive has never focused on the myriad of smaller programs that are crucial in assisting families in New York as they work their way out of poverty. The Legislature has played that role. It is devastating that the Governor has chosen to wipe away these critical programs especially at a time when the federal rules require us to do more to engage people.”
“The Governor has unilaterally decided to spend $1.041 billion in federal TANF funds on a risky experiment called the Flexible Fund for Family Services (FFFS). He is moving forward on TANF spending without regard for the bi-partisan agreement reached by the Legislature and without funding many programs that have been effectively operating for years,” 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 remaining TANF funds, families and the organizations that serve them will start to feel the pain of this inaction.”
The advocates also were upset that almost $400 million in Child Care subsidies have been lumped into the Flexible Fund and that funding for SUNY/CUNY childcare and facilitated enrollment services have been completely omitted by the Governor. The elimination of the SUNY/CUNY childcare funding could inevitably mean the end of these services at our state/city institutions of higher learning.
The Governors actions also eliminate $8.3 million of 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. These funds would help working families across the state access the licensed, quality childcare they so desperately need,” stated Sonte Ducote of the NYS Union Childcare Coalition.
Many other organizations that rely on TANF funds to provide support services to families transitioning from welfare to work have also seen their funding eliminated by the decisions the Governor is making unilaterally. “While millions of immigrants across the State are eager to learn English and improve their community and economic standing, Governor Pataki is defying the State Legislature and cutting vital funding intended to help immigrants and all low-income New Yorkers,” said Jose Davila, State Government Affairs Representative for the New York Immigration Coalition. “The Governor should release the remainder of the TANF funds and ensure that vital educational services like adult English classes are kept open throughout New York State,” said Davila.
“We are just becoming quite worried about how we and the other groups will make ends meet this year. The $1 million in TANF funding for emergency homeless services can’t be replaced, and it is needed to pay for eviction prevention, emergency food and shelter, and crisis intervention services for homeless families. We need for the Governor to resubmit the legislation so that the bi-partisan conference committee agreement can become law, and we can continue to deliver these services,” said Shelly Nortz, Deputy Executive Director for Policy with Coalition for the Homeless.
The Women’s Employment and Resource Center in Albany has also expressed concerns that funding for the highly successful Displaced Homemaker program has been eliminated. “Without this essential funding Displaced Homemaker Centers across the state will face an almost 50% cut in funding and many of us may be forced to consider closing our doors to the women who rely on us to help them re-enter the workforce to become economically self-sufficient,” said Beth Miller, Executive Director of the Capital District Women’s Employment and Resource Center.
“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
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 to live with the funds lost as a consequence of these games,” stated Trudi Renwick, Senior Economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute.
Statewide advocacy groups such as the Empire State Economic Security Campaign, the Fiscal Policy Institute, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, Empire Justice Center and others strongly urged the Governor to resubmit this portion of his budget to fund the myriad of programs he has eliminated.