On January 22, 2013, Governor Cuomo revealed his FY2014 budget. His proposed $142.6 billion budget plan represents a 5.3 percent increase over the current one, however, much of the increase will be covered by federal funding provided for Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. While this year there weren’t sizeable cuts to human service programs, which the Human Services Council is grateful for, there were certain issues of concern that could affect services and programming in the years to come.
One of the major items left out of this year’s budget were Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) for human service providers. This is the fifth year consecutively that they have been deferred in the budget. COLAs cost the State $44.1 million, a small amount of the budget that providers have gone without for five years while cost of living has increased. There is the potential to lose workers if these nonprofits are unable to pay a COLA, and without one from the State, organizations must decide whether to pay a COLA at the expense of operating programs, or not pay a COLA and either lose vital workers or staff who are already overworked will continue to go without.
In last year’s budget, the Governor tied COLAs to performance measures, but COLAs are not a raise, they are simply an acknowledgment of the reality that the cost of living goes up. HSC is pleased that the Governor removed this language in this year’s budget. The 1.4 percent deferment in this year’s budget is significant and HSC will continue to advocate for COLAs and maintains a positive outlook for it being included in next year’s budget.
HSC is also concerned with the Governor’s plan to not increase aid to local government assistance. Through Cuomo’s budget plan, he maintains to keep direct local and government aid programs, including Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) for localities at 2012-13 funding levels. However, this puts further pressure on programs that are operating on an already slim and taxed budget. The static funding to localities causes greater cuts at the local level. While the budget outlook at the State level overall looks better, you will see greater cuts imposed by cities, towns and villages. With no increase in funding for these programs, there is the possibility that the additional strain will force many human services programs to ultimately be cut in many communities.
A new item in this year’s budget was allocation for Hurricane Sandy, which has been of much concern for many New Yorkers as many have been displaced from their homes, lost their jobs, and have not been reimbursed for the damage they’ve sustained. While the Executive Budget projects increased federal funding due to the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act and federal disaster aid for Sandy, other federal aid is at stake as the federal government moves to decrease its operating deficit through the planned sequestration cuts or possibility of tax reform at the federal level.
Governor Cuomo has proposed a range of programs to put the State and localities in a better position to respond if and when another disaster hits. Some of these programs are:
- Formation of a statewide volunteer network that would bring together individuals, non-profit organizations, and corporations to meet critical needs in relief efforts. Volunteers will be matched with assistance opportunities.
- Creation of a vulnerable population database giving first responders, outreach workers, and healthcare and human services providers’ access to information to help find and serve those that may need help.
Post-Sandy, this gave us the opportunity to foster a relationship with government agencies in an effort to increase our response times to at-risk neighborhoods and be able to coordinate relief plans in a more efficient manner. Many communities still need your help and are continuing with volunteer efforts to areas still devastated by Sandy, go to http://newyorkcares.org and find a volunteer project nearest you.
Divestment over the past three years has meant a loss of $1 billion in funding for human services at the State and local level; although there are only marginal cuts this year, nothing has been restored. Hopefully the minimal cuts this year will lay the groundwork for investments next year. If we are going to focus on having a stronger sector in the years to come, it is necessary to have a solid foundation and infrastructure moving forward. The final budget won’t be approved until April 1st, so speak to your State legislators about the issues that are important in your community and how these cuts will affect the programs in your neighborhood. You can find your legislators here.
This budget proposal is a starting point, and now it is our responsibility to push for the issues that will impact our communities. Get involved today!
 New York State Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2013-2014. Fiscal Policy Institute. January 2013.