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Policy Matters April 2015: Budget Wrap Up


 

April 2015: Budget Wrap Up

Wow!  We made it to the conclusion of another budget session here at Empire Justice Center!  These past few months have been quite hectic, as we worked to advocate for certain budgetary priorities before the Governor and the State Legislature. 

As the ink dries on the budget over the next few days, we want to provide you with a quick update on where we landed on our signature issues.

Civil Legal Services

We applaud the Chief Judge’s commitment to enhancing the work and capacity of civil legal services providers across New York State.  Upon parsing the budget, we were thrilled to see the Office of Court Administration’s recommended funding sustained.  We also thank the Assembly and Senate for maintaining their funding levels for civil legal services and domestic violence work.

And we are celebrating with our colleagues at the Empire State Pride Agenda, who were successful in securing increased funding for runaway and homeless youth in the state budget, in addition to level funding for the LGBT Health Initiative through the AIDS Institute at the NY State Department of Health.  Congratulations on a successful campaign!

Health

CHA – Previously, we noted that with the major changes in health care and the roll-out of the New York State of Health Marketplace, equipping consumers with information about their options is key, especially when they encounter problems along the way.  Community Health Advocates (CHA) is an energetic statewide network of community-based organizations that help New Yorkers and small businesses understand health insurance coverage and resolve billing and coverage denials.

On July 1, 2015, federal funding for CHA was set to expire and we were looking for a financial commitment from the state to keep it going.  We are happy to report that the Governor and State Legislature partnered together to not only keep it going, but to increase funding for the program to $3 million dollars for the next year!  This is an amazing achievement – it’s the first time the state has provided funding for the program!

MCCAP – As a statewide program comprised of six core agencies, the Managed Care Consumer Assistance Program (MCCAP) provides valuable direct assistance to seniors and individuals with disabilities accessing Medicare services, as well as essential training, technical support and assistance to various organizations who work with these populations.

To continue to offer these services, the Executive budget proposed level funding for the program, in the amount of $1.767 million.  Although we advocated for a small increase to help meet the growing need, we are pleased that funding held steady at last year’s level. 


Other Health Outcomes - As we review the health care sections of the budget, we are keeping an eye on other health issues, such as prescriber prevails, spousal refusal and the Basic Health Plan.  We are pleased that the legislature rejected both the proposed elimination of “prescriber prevails” and spousal refusal, and we are still analyzing other sections of the budget including changes to the Basic Health Plan.  We will provide a more in depth health analysis later this month!

Disability

DAP - Along with our colleagues in the DAPWorks for NY campaign, we were successful in obtaining a small bump in funding for the program from last year’s level of $7 million statewide.  The restoration to $7 million, coupled with a $260,000 increase for a total of $7.26 million statewide, will enable programs to provide more services for low income and disabled New Yorkers seeking federal disability benefits.  Even though it falls shorts of our $8 million ask, we are appreciative of the increased funding, and are confident it will go to good use in meeting the unmet need for DAP services.

Immigration

In New York State and nationwide, there is a critical need to connect immigrants with quality services.  The creation of the Office for New Americans, within New York’s Department of State, has been instrumental in addressing this need.  We were thrilled to see the State Legislature stand with the Governor’s proposal to almost double funding for the program, jumping from $3.4 million last year to $6.4 million statewide this year, in recognition of the need to support New York’s immigrant community!

Child Care

Every year, families struggle with the increasing cost of child care.  As part of the Winning Beginning NY coalition, we were pleased to see an additional $5 million in new funding for child care subsidies, which will help chip away at the need for more child care slots.  Additionally, there was an increase in both TANF funding (which was transferred to childcare) and facilitated enrollment.  While these increased investments fall short of our total ask, we welcome any expansion in child care funding to help meet the need for working families statewide.

As family members seek information about kincare services to take care of loved ones, we are happy to see a legislative increase of $1 million for kinship care programs statewide.  Funding in the amount of $1.338 million will enable programs to help families navigate the system and connect them with vital services.

Public Benefits

In continuing to advocate for an increase in the shelter and utility portions of the welfare grant statewide, we are pleased to see the creation of a small pilot program in New York City, with up to $15 million in shelter supplement funds to help avert homelessness.  As this as a key issue across the state, we look forward to working with our colleagues and policymakers to address other barriers to climbing out of poverty and to move toward expanding the program statewide. 

What’s Next?

In our most recent community development report “In the Eye of the Storm”, one of the key recommendations is the creation of a Community Restoration Fund (CRF) to purchase distressed mortgages and foreclosed or vacant properties in bulk at discounted rates, and either rent or sell back to the original owner or demolish the property.

We were hopeful that a significant portion of the recent settlement funds awarded to New York would be used for programs designed to stabilize communities, such as the CRF, but were extremely disappointed to see that none of the funds were dedicated to it.  We will continue to meet with key policymakers to make the case for the importance of these innovative initiatives statewide. 

Now that the budget has been passed, we will be busy working on our other legislative and administrative issues, such as GENDA, the need for disability screening tools in the public assistance system, the inadequacy of the public assistance grant, along with a call for a study and increase of the grant statewide, and SNAP advocacy, among others.  To stay informed of new developments as they occur, make sure to check out our Facebook page and our website for updates.

Talk with you all soon!


The Empire Justice Policy Team


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