Because of the work invested by HSC and partners across the state to reform the Personal Income Tax this past fall and winter, there was enough funding in the budget to begin to make restorations to critical human services in FY13. The budget bills are expected to be passed on March 28th and 29th with a total of approximately $150 million set to be restored to human services in the final enacted budget.
Among the restorations, HSC successfully lobbied against the elimination of the human services cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Although delayed to FY14, the multi-year deal will be continued without the inclusion of language regarding meeting new performance standards. The sector agrees with and spends significant time complying with oversight of its service delivery on behalf of the state. However, the COLA is an earned salary adjustment this deserving workforce hasn’t seen in what will now be four years as other operational costs such as health insurance, rent, and utilities continue to rise.
Other important human service restorations included work supports and employment training for struggling New Yorkers such as about $14 million for a number of child care programs (in addition to the $93 million in funding the Governor submitted to offset the loss of federal dollars), $250,000 for English as a Second Language/Adult Basic Education, $1.5 million for the NYS Supportive Housing Program, and $3 million for the Advanced Technology Training & Info Networking (ATTAIN) and $750,000 for the Career Pathways TANF initiatives. Restorations were also made to services for survivors of domestic violence with $1.2 million for Non-Residential Domestic Violence and $1 million for the Safe Harbor program, which serves victims of child sex trafficking.
We also applaud the $60 million new investment in supportive housing, as recommended by the Medicaid Redesign Team, to fund services, rent subsidies and capital dollars for high-cost Medicaid recipients. Finally, we were very pleased to see $15 million for the final installment of the Public Assistance Grant increase, which is still woefully behind inflation, but will fulfill the promise made four years ago.
While we enjoyed some important restorations to human services for FY13, we have to put this in context of the nearly one billion in direct service cuts and an estimated 27,000 jobs lost in the last two years, as well as how human services faired in comparison to new investments in business development and restorations in education which both saw about $1 billion in this budget compared to the approximately $150 million in human services. Additionally, as need for services continues at all-time record highs, we are disappointed not to see any of the $1 billion worth of corporate tax reform options considered in the FY13 budget. New Yorkers deserve fair, sustainable revenue to ensure enough funding to meet service demands. We hope the Governor’s Tax Reform Commission will seriously look at corporate tax improvements in time for next year’s budget.
Contributed by Chris Winward of the Human Services Council.