|RELEASES: Statements on the 2022-23 budget from Empire Justice Center, School Nutrition Association, Environmental Advocates, NYPIRG.
|For Immediate Release: April 11, 2022
Contact: Kristin Brown, President and CEO, firstname.lastname@example.org
2022 State Budget:
Good Budget for Many Programs Benefitting Low-Income New Yorkers; Must Do More for Immigrants
“This year’s budget process was demonstrably different than the previous fifteen, resulting in a number of key investments. I appreciate the Governor proactively including programs benefitting low-income New Yorkers, and the legislature’s steadfast support. In some issue areas where we saw progress, Empire Justice Center attorneys and staff have worked on them for a close to a decade. Increased funding for disability appeals advocacy, eviction and foreclosure prevention, and consumer health advocacy will meaningfully help more people receive the right kind of services they need. Going forward, we must focus on raising the cash grant for public benefits recipients, overhauling unfair unemployment overpayment rules, and be inclusive of all immigrant New Yorkers. I also want to extend my gratitude to Assembly Health Chair Dick Gottfried as he serves his last term this year. It was my privilege to have worked with one of the most devoted and knowledgeable legislators to advance so many important services for client communities across New York State,” said Kristin Brown, President and CEO of Empire Justice Center.
As a public interest law firm that advocates for low-income New Yorkers, Empire Justice Center worked hard with colleagues, legislators, and the Governor’s office on a number of budget proposals. Several programs and policy bills deserve special mention:
Funding Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP)
We are thankful to Governor Hochul for including $20 million for the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) in the initial budget for the first time, and for the Legislature for including additional funding of $15 million to meet the increased need for services. The historic increase in funding will help homeowners negotiate with their lenders and ultimately stay in their homes. We want to give special thanks to Senate and Assembly Housing Chairs, Brian Kavanagh and Steve Cymbrowitz, as well as Senate Finance Chair Liz Krueger and Assembly Ways & Means Chair Helene Weinstein, who have all been steadfast supporters. We are also especially pleased with the Governor’s stewardship in including the program in the initial budget.
Upstate and Long Island Eviction Defense
Eviction Defense funding of $35 million for services outside of New York City will provide a lifeline for renters in upstate and Long Island who are struggling to stay in their homes. As legal service providers, we work directly with tenants in need of representation, and worked to ensure an equitable distribution method. We are grateful for Senator Ryan’s leadership.
Timely Increases for Community Health Advocates (CHA) and the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP)
Community Health Advocates (CHA) will, for the first time, be able to provide services to all New Yorkers, including people who rely on Medicaid. We appreciate the increase in funding from the Governor and the Legislature, which will allow CHA to help every New Yorker save money on bills, navigate complicated insurance coverage, and handle appeals, during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed great health disparities and financial barriers across our communities. Thank you to the Governor, Assemblymember Gottfried, and Senator Gustavo Rivera, without whose support the program would be impossible.
The Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) provides representation for low-income New Yorkers who have been denied federal disability benefits, which is the sole source of income for many low-income families. Thanks to an additional $2.63 million proposed by Governor Hochul in the Executive budget, and a $1 million add-on from the Legislature, DAP will be funded at $12.52 million. This means DAP will be better able to tackle the backlog of Social Security claims caused by the long-term physical closure of Social Security offices, and rising claims beginning to be filed by New Yorkers who have become disabled due to Long COVID. We are very pleased that the Legislature and the Governor are recognizing the challenges faced by disabled and senior low-income New Yorkers. Thank you to Senate and Assembly Social Services Chairs, Roxanne Persaud and Linda Rosenthal, for pushing for this important funding.
And a special thank you to Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, who founded DAP in 1983 and has been a champion for the program for almost forty years. We will miss Assemblymember Gottfried’s expertise, advocacy and ardent support for programs benefiting the poorest New Yorkers.
We appreciate the Governor, Assemblymember Joyner and Senator Ryan for making New York more inclusive for immigrants. The budget codifies and expands prior executive orders requiring state agencies providing direct public services to translate vital documents into the 12 most common non-English languages in the state. In addition, agencies may offer four additional languages based on regional needs in New York state. This law means immigrants who speak Urdu and French, common languages for immigrants originally from Southeast Asia and African communities, will now have access to vital documents they understand, in addition to the ten languages that are already codified presently.
Expansion of the Gender Recognition Act
We were very pleased, along with other members of the Gender Recognition Act Coalition, including the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, Legal Services NYC, the NYCLU, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Legal Aid NYC, and Arrowood Law, to help shape provisions in the budget to create new X gender marker options for all state agencies, and to ensure that transgender, nonbinary, and intersex New Yorkers are able to update their marriage certificates. Thank you to Governor Hochul, Senator Krueger, and to central staff in the Senate and Assembly for working with us.
We are thrilled to finally see the elimination of the 185% of the standard of need test for very low-income New Yorkers who receive public benefits. This rule will result in a modest increase in the net amount of money very poor New Yorkers can receive each month. In most counties, “185% of the standard of need” is well below 70% of the Federal Poverty level. With other advocates, Empire Justice Center has advocated for this change for almost a decade, including in our testimony this year to the Human Services Budget Committee, and we are glad to see this change that means having food, gas, and shelter for the poorest New Yorkers. We now need to work on increasing the grant level for the next fiscal year. We appreciate the Governor and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal for their hard work on this issue.
STATEMENT FROM JENNIFER MARTIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NEW YORK SCHOOL NUTRITION ASSOCIATION
“This Budget Deal Means That Thousands of New York Children
Could Go Hungry or Undernourished”
“The recently passed New York State budget ignored the needs of thousands of New York families who, facing rising inflation, are going to be forced to make decisions about paying their bills or paying for their children to get healthy meals.
By not funding Healthy School Meals for All, 2,000 New York schools and 800,000 New York students will lose access to free meals at school. That’s beyond irresponsible in these difficult times. We think New Yorkers need to know that this budget deal means that thousands of New York children could go hungry or undernourished.
NYSNA and 300 other state education associations, anti-hunger groups, child nutrition advocates, and school districts urged state legislators and Gov. Hochul to include the Healthy School Meals for All proposal in the FY2023 state budget but their voices – and those of New York’s schoolchildren – were ignored.
We will keep the pressure on our state and federal elected leaders to solve this crisis and to feed our children.”
# # #
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic schools across the nation have offered meals to students at no cost, ensuring they have access to a healthy breakfast and lunch each school day, even when remote learning was in place. However, federal waivers that gave schools the ability to do so are set to expire in June and the federal government has failed to extend the waivers or provide additional funding.
School meals are among the most effective anti-hunger programs and are proven to reduce food insecurity; improve mental and physical health; support students’ ability to thrive academically; and bolster education, health, and economic equity. In schools with universal meals, students had improved results on standardized tests, attention and learning retainment, and overall tardiness. Participation in school nutrition programs also have been shown to result in decreased rates of mental illness, depression, disruptive behavior, and obesity, and improved rates of overall behavioral health. Free meals for all also reduce stigmas related to free or reduced-price meals.
For Immediate Release: April 11, 2022
Brian Keegan: (518) 441-8339; email@example.com
Environmental Advocates NY Reacts to the New York State Budget
The following statement can be attributed to Kate Kurera, Deputy Director of Environmental Advocates NY:
“There is a lot to celebrate in this year’s budget. New York is making major investments in our climate, and we applaud Governor Hochul along with the State Legislature for making a $500 million investment in water infrastructure spending; a bigger, better Bond Act; a historic $400 million Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), and $500 million dedicated to offshore wind. We were especially pleased to see the inclusion of strong wetland protections, a mandate to move all school buses to electric, and the elimination of a Cuomo-era practice of transferring $23 million in clean energy funding (RGGI).
We still have more to do this session and look forward to tackling the solid waste crisis with an extended producer responsibility program for paper and packaging materials and passing new climate standards for appliances and buildings.
Finally, while the climate investments in this budget will speed the development of the offshore wind industry, we are disappointed that it failed to achieve the level of investment needed to match the urgency of the climate crisis and to jump-start the state’s transition off fossil fuels.”
For more information:
Monday, April 11, 2022 Blair Horner 518 436-0876 x257
NYPIRG STATEMENT ON DEMOCRACY REFORMS INCLUDED IN THE BUDGET
(Albany, N.Y.) Early Saturday morning, the Senate and Assembly approved a state budget. In many ways, the process by which the budget agreement was cobbled together was an example of Albany at its worst: the budget was negotiated almost entirely behind closed doors – leaving the public and many of the lawmakers in the dark. The agreement was rammed through with Messages of Necessity, thus depriving a few days of meaningful review of the agreement itself, and the final debates were conducted too often in the dead of night.
The product of the budget left a lot to be desired in the area of democracy. The governor and state lawmakers agreed to get rid of the much-maligned ethics watchdog – the Joint Commission on Public Ethics – and replace it with a new entity, but one that is essentially chosen by the state’s top elected officials. Thus, the new entity follows the same failed path of the leaders choosing their own ethics regulators. It hasn’t worked in the past and is unlikely to do so in the future.
On a brighter note, reforms were included in the budget. Starting this November, students who live on campus will now be able to vote in polling places at their colleges. Undoubtedly, that will increase voter participation rates for young voters, among those who have the lowest rates now. In addition, the budget establishes a “database of deals” to better help oversee the state’s vast economic subsidy programs. That reform is not without its weaknesses, most notably that it will only include subsidies received after mid- October 2022 and the database will not include a way for the public to view a list of all types and amounts of benefits that a single company has received, among other limitations.
Unfortunately, important reforms were left out of the final budget agreement. For example, the governor's proposal to lower New York’s voter registration deadline from 25 days in advance of Election Day to the state constitutionally required 10 days was left out, there were no changes to the partisan-controlled boards of elections, and no reforms of the loop-riddled campaign finance system.
The following statement is attributable to Blair Horner, Executive Director for NYPIRG:
“Ethical controversies, scandals, resignations, and corruption convictions have for too long been a hallmark of how Albany operates. Adding to that an elections system that is too often marred by incompetence, and there can be no doubt about the source of New Yorkers’ growing cynicism about their own government. The new governor has promised changes and this budget delivers on some, but the ethics deal is way too weak and will not work. When lawmakers return at the end of the month, further measures to ensure the independence of the leadership of the new ethics agency must be at the top of the ‘to-do’ list.’”