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Advocates Applaud Governor Spitzer

For Immediate Release

January 3, 2008

Contact: Kristin Brown,  (518) 462-6831
Susan C. Antos,  (518) 462-6831

Advocates at the Empire Justice Center today applauded Governor Spitzer for his continued targeted investments in the areas of health and human services .  ”We continue to pour through the details, but given the current fiscal climate, we are pleased to see that the Governor has made some very strategic investments in areas critical to poor and low income New Yorkers," said Kristin Brown Lilley, Legislative Director for the Empire Justice Center.
 
"In the health care area, this budget proposes to continue on the path of putting patients first," said Trilby deJung, health law attorney.  "We are particularly pleased to see the Governor stand by his commitment to increase eligibility levels for Child Health Plus, even in the face of a pretty daunting deficit.  This will mean the difference between access to primary and preventive care for thousands of children and leaving their care to haphazard treatment in times of emergencies only."
 
Empire Justice, a statewide multi-issue, multi-strategy nonprofit law firm focused on changing the systems within which poor and low income families live, with offices located in Albany, Rochester, White Plains and Long Island,  also praised the Governor for his continued focus on moving more of the state's health care funding into primary settings and his efforts to expand access to preventive care.  "His proposals around increasing services in underserved areas by providing incentives to providers to work in and serve these areas are encouraging,"  said Ms. de Jung who also noted the critical importance on investing in efforts to end childhood lead poisoning as one of the more pressing preventive care initiatives the state needs to pursue.
 
"On the health front, this budget imposes no cuts in services, no reduction in eligibility levels and provides targeted and creative new investments to streamline services and ensure greater access to basic primary and preventive care," noted deJung.
 
In terms of human services, Susan Antos, an attorney specializing in public benefits, applauded the Governor for a proposal that would increase the amount of child support collections that will go to families in need.  "Right now, the state and its local social services districts keep all but $50 a month of a custodial parent's child support payments to reimburse themselves for public assistance paid to the family." she said.  The Governor's budget proposes to increase that "pass through" to $100. This increase will not only provide significant assistance to helping to further stabilize 27,000 affected families, but will also assure non-custodial parents that the child support payments that they are making will increase the well being of their children.
 
The Governor's budget also proposes an historic $400 million Housing Opportunity Fund. This funding will be targeted to affordable housing and to supportive housing for those with special needs.  "While the details will need to be developed, we are pleased to hear that they will be creating an Advisory Panel to seek input from the community,” noted Bryan Hetherington, Chief Council for Empire Justice.
 
"Obviously we are disappointed that there is no proposed increase in the public assistance grant -- which has been frozen for almost two decades.  At the same time, we understand this is a dynamic process and we look forward to working with the administration and the Legislature to press for this and other investments in key policies, programs and services that will help support our constituency in these difficult times," concluded Ms. Brown Lilley

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