Assemblyman David I. Weprin: Budget Reduces Sharp Cuts to NYC Seniors and Working Families

Assemblyman David I. Weprin (D-Queens) announced that the 2011-12 state budget reduces spending, while maintaining critical funding for those New York City residents who need it most.

“Despite the state’s fiscal problems, we could not, in good conscience, accept all of the proposed cuts to programs affecting seniors, the homeless and students,” Assemblyman Weprin said. “The term shared sacrifice has been popping up a lot during budget discussions, but there are certain groups of people who are disproportionately affected by drastic reductions to programs and services.”

Keeping senior centers open

Our senior centers have played a vital role in improving the lives of seniors in communities throughout the city. That’s why the 2011-12 budget restores $25 million in New York City Title XX discretionary funds to these centers.

“We are in the midst of tough fiscal times, but we can’t let our treasured older New Yorkers suffer,” Assemblyman Weprin said. “We need to provide seniors with the resources they need to continue living happy, healthy lives.”

Multiple senior centers in Northeast Queens receive Title XX funding. These centers provide nutritious meals, health and wellness activities and social events for seniors.

Investing in education

The final state budget restores $230 million in general support to public schools statewide, including $53 million for New York City schools. In addition, restorations for state-supported schools for the blind and deaf and the Summer School Special Education program reduced the cost shift to NYC by $95 million.

“I fought for restorations to soften the sharpest cuts because we simply can’t afford to abandon our public schools,” Assemblyman Weprin said. “We owe our children the best possible opportunities.”

Preserving vital housing programs

The 2011-12 budget restores $4.2 million to the Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP). Established in 1977, the NPP allows the Division of Housing and Community Renewal to contract with not-for-profit, community-based housing corporations to perform housing and community-renewal activities.i The budget also rejects an executive proposal to merge the Neighborhood Preservation Program with the Rural Preservation Program, a move that would have negatively impacted the effectiveness of each program.

“We need to make sure that New York City families have access to affordable housing,” Assemblyman Weprin said. “That’s why I fought to ensure this housing program remained funded and intact. With rent-regulation laws still remaining to be extended this year, my work will continue on the issue of affordable housing for our families.”

Also included in the final state budget is $15 million for a new program for homeless individuals and families in New York City.

Restorations for CUNY

The budget also restores 49 percent of the proposed base aid cut, or an $88 per Full Time Equivalent restoration, for a total of $5.1 million for CUNY community colleges. In addition, the budget provides new procurement guidelines for CUNY that will allow CUNY colleges and the CUNY Construction Fund additional authorization to purchase services without prior approval from the attorney general or the state comptroller.

Additionally, we were able to restore $334,000 to help provide child care for students working to get their degree.

“The college dream should be in reach for all students, regardless of their families’ income,” Assemblyman Weprin said. “That’s why it’s critical that CUNY remains affordable.”

Supporting summer job opportunities for youths

The final budget restores $15.5 million to the Summer Youth Employment Program. In 2010, the program helped 35,725 young adults find jobs in 5,800 worksites throughout New York City.

“It would have been irresponsible to balance the budget by cutting off job opportunities for motivated young adults seeking to gain professional work experience,” Assemblyman Weprin said. “Furthermore, it would have been economically counterproductive to keep these youths from contributing to their local economies and helping to provide for themselves or their families.”

Providing a living wage for homecare workers

Also included in the budget is a three-year phase-in to provide homecare workers with a local living wage in counties where living-wage laws are enacted.

“Homecare workers provide an invaluable service to the sick and the elderly, yet many of them struggle just to pay their bills and put food on the table,” Assemblyman Weprin said. “They deserve to make a fair income and have access to the same rights that other health care workers are provided under state law.”

$30 million restored for “prescriber prevails” protections and more

Recognizing that physicians should have the final say when it comes to prescription drug decisions, the final budget upholds the “prescriber prevails” protection for certain Medicaid patients. Without this, the New York State Health Department would have precedence over doctors with respect to the pharmaceutical determinations of the neediest New Yorkers.

In addition, $28.3 million is provided to maintain the right of “spousal refusal” – to ensure people in need of long-term care are not unnecessarily institutionalized – $5.5 million is appropriated to restore half the cuts to Early Intervention and $7.5 million is included to reject the executive proposal to increase or modify co-payments for Medicaid, Family Health Plus and Child Health Plus.

Other public protections

Over the last 10 years, the New York prison population has decreased by more than 15,000 inmates. As a result, the state prison system currently maintains thousands of vacant beds. Therefore, in order to save more than $72 million, the budget will authorize the governor to close underutilized prisons and reduce the number of vacant beds.

“The smart-on-crime policies that the Assembly has supported over the last decade have helped to drastically reduce crime and make New York the safest large state in the nation,” Assemblyman Weprin said. “At the same time, support of cost-efficient alternatives-to-incarceration programs for non-violent offenders and the reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws have combined to lower the prison population and reduce recidivism, allowing the state to eliminate vacant beds in the prison system without jeopardizing public safety.”

An appropriation of $8.2 million is set aside for the Supervision and Treatment Services for Juveniles Program, and an additional $13.5 million is provided for alternatives-to-incarceration programs across the state. In addition, the 2011-12 budget fully restores prior-year funding allocations for criminal and legal service providers at $2.8 million, and support for domestic-violence legal services is restored at $2.4 million.