Democratic leaders in Albany are preparing for a full Assembly vote as early as Tuesday on Speaker Sheldon Silver’s welfare bill, despite the fact that most legislators knew only the broadest outlines of the proposal by Friday afternoon.
Assembly staff were still drafting parts of the bill late Friday, according to legislative sources. Welfare rights organizations and advocates spent the latter part of the week demanding details and seeking concessions from the Assembly leadership, to little avail. As the holiday weekend began many said they were frustrated by the lack of time for real discussion.
“Obviously when you are dealing with legislation that affects people’s lives, a million people’s ability to survive, you would think there would be a more careful assessment,” said Richard Blum, a Legal Aid staff attorney. “That there’s not illustrates how this is just a political game.”
Earlier in the week, Silver provided some information about the plan, including:
— State welfare time limits would be five years for families, two years for adults without children.
— After reaching the time limit, welfare recipients would be eligible for “Safety Net Assistance,” which would include non-cash vouchers pay for rent, utilities and other minimal necessities.
— Local governments would have the option of placing childless adults directly onto the Safety Net program rather than providing cash assistance.
— Parents would be exempt from workfare requirements for only three months after their baby is born.
— Government employees would receive greater protections to prevent them being replaced by workfare participants, including new grievance procedures.
It remained unclear Friday whether Speaker Silver would seek continuation of the court-ordered $75 million “Jiggetts Relief” rent supplement, which has saved more than 25,000 city households from eviction. Silver did not say if he intends to exempt pregnant women, the elderly and the homeless from workfare, nor did he say whether workfare for students on public assistance should be changed to help them stay in school.
The bill is to be printed for release on Monday, said one legislative staffer. Another observer added that the vote will go ahead Tuesday — unless the black and Puerto Rican caucuses refuse to support Silver’s plan.