African Americans and the Budget: The Disparities of Opportunity due to Lack of Targeted Funding

Today, African Americans continue to face a visible absence of support, which has created a significant amount of undeniable disparity. Making up 12.6 percent of the Nation’s population, the majority of African Americans live in New York State and over a quarter of New York City’s population is of African American descent. (In 2010 African Americans made up 12.6 percent of the nation’s population, 15.9 percent of New York State’s population and 25.5 percent of New York City’s population. (US Census Bureau))

In comparison to white Americans, black Americans are…

  • 2 times more likely to be unemployed or homeless.
  • 5 ½ times more likely to be imprisoned.
  • 3 times more likely to be HIV positive.
  • 2 ½ times more likely to be suspended from school.
  • 2 ½ times more likely to have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) due to domestic abuse and exposure to excessive violence.

Employment Assistance & Training: Did you know that African Americans are one-third more likely to work in the public sector? However, the likelihood of wage increases for New York State employees is uncertain within the Executive Budget of 2013 and public sector jobs are projected to fall by one percent; overall growth rates are estimated to be well below historical averages according to Governor Cuomo. Furthermore, according to the Labor Department, State and local governments have shed at least 142,000 positions in addition to 200,000 public sector jobs lost in 2010 and more than 500,000 lost since the start of the recession in 2008. The culmination of these losses speak for the once tens of thousands of middle-class African Americans  who have lost their jobs since the recession, which has resulted in a near disappearance of the entire African-American middle class. (“As Public Sector Jobs, Blacks Are Hit Hardest”)

Homeless & Housing Services: Over 50 percent of African Americans in New York City are homeless. This is due to a steady decline of affordable housing, without wage or employment opportunity increases. In order to eradicate homelessness in general, there needs to be a demand and expansion of housing subsidies programs and homeless prevention programs. However, this year it has been decided that supplement funding for City shelters will be suspended.  This is a trend that was noticeable last year, when the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was cut entirely; without such funds, families are unable to find affordable housing and forced to rely on the shelter system.

Juvenile Justice Services: 77 percent of all American youth serving life without parole sentences are of color. In FY11, there was a $29 million reduction in the investment of Performance-Based Supervision and Treatment Services for Juveniles and a $23 million cut to the Restructure and Reduce State Support for Local Detention Costs. In 2010 over 83 percent of youth in the Office of Children and Family Services facilities, responsible for the placement and incarceration of juveniles, identified as African American or Hispanic.  The Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) will be reduced by 324 beds in the coming year.

According to The New York Women’s Foundation, “there was a 50 percent reduction in funding for a loss of $30 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), Youth Development and Delinquency Prevention Program (YDDP), Special Delinquency Prevention Program (SDPP), Community Optional Preventive Services (COPS) and Kinship Care programs. Failure to restore these funds will likely jeopardize success in the state’s planned transition to community-based services for at-risk youth and juvenile offenders, with a disproportionate impact on LGBTQ youth.”

Health Services:  African Americans are three times as likely to be HIV positive and are more prone to becoming homeless due to a lack of structural involvement. Programs like HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) make it possible for people living with HIV/AIDS to have access to permanent housing. HASA has faced increasing cuts the past few years, and therefore has less of an impact on the most vulnerable in the African American community. It is important to keep in mind that these disproportions of health in the African American community are due to environmental health and poverty that occurs due to a lack support. “Environmental health researchers, sociologists, policy-makers, and activists concerned about environmental justice argue that communities of color who are segregated in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and material deprivation are also disproportionately exposed to physical environments that adversely affect their health and well-being.” (The Riskscape and the Color Line: Examining the Role of Segregation in Environmental Health Disparities)

What Can You Do?

Share these facts and thoughts with your City Council Members and other government officials, including Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo and tell them you care about the severity of racial disparities that continue to widen in New York and across the Nation.  And if you wish to take it a step further, visit your Senator.

Be an active voice of change by visiting your government officials in person with a clear intention on what you believe needs to change (more funding for OST, SYEP, HASA, etc.) Write them a letter or give them a call. Or better yet, do it all!

Contributed by Elise Stukenberg of the Human Services Council. 

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About Human Services Council

The Human Services Council strengthens New York's nonprofit human services sector, ensuring all New Yorkers across diverse neighborhoods, cultures, and generations reach their full potential.
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