While Mayor Bloomberg last week announced that everyone would bear the brunt of the city’s $1.1 billion deficit, homeless services actually come out ahead while child welfare and health care programs stand to suffer.
While pitching $844 million in cuts to city services for the fiscal year ending in June, the mayor hopes that for next year, state officials will help get the city another $1.4 billion in tax reforms and a menu of reimbursements, and that the feds will chip in another $200 million.
Whether he will get all the budget modifications he’s asking for is unclear. The mayor will formally present his plan to the City Council on Wednesday, and state and federal officials have said they are reviewing his proposals–he asks for $1.4 billion and $200 million from them respectively. In the meantime, here’s a look at what the city could be in for should Bloomberg get his way.
Homeless families and adults come out slightly ahead in the budget modifications. While the mayor has called for taking $15.5 million from this year’s fiscal budget, he added in $18.2 million in discretionary funds in anticipation of a continued demand for emergency shelter, and to bolster the city’s programs for shifting homeless families into permanent housing. Those permanency initiatives–for which the mayor would like to spend $6.4 million–include beefing up the Department of Homeless Services’ unit that processes housing subsidies, hiring 65 housing specialists to work in private shelters, and distributing more Section 8 vouchers that come with bonuses for landlords. Another $4 million will go toward making more beds available for homeless adults as the weather gets colder.
The spending cuts include those from personnel reductions–110 employees took the early retirement package last month.
Mayor Bloomberg has made sure the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene maintains its ability to prepare for bio-terrorist attacks, but other programs face major changes.
The city’s pest control program will lose about $1 million, particularly hampering the agency’s ability to inspect infested apartments. The lead poisoning program would lose another $800,000, much of which would come out of the Safe House program, which provides shelter for people whose homes contain dangerous lead levels.
The agency expects about 28,000 children and adults to lose out on asthma education and other services as a result of a $700,000 cut to asthma initiatives.
Mental health programs would lose $4 million, affecting over 10,000 mental health and substance abuse clients, said Andrew Rein, deputy commissioner for financial and strategic planning at the health department. And infant mortality and maternity services would take a $1 million hit, leaving about 400 women without case management and referral services, Rein said.
The city’s child welfare programs would also take a big hit this year–a $61 million decrease on top of the $108 million in cuts that were passed in June.
That would mean the Administration for Children’s Services would eliminate between 1,700 and 2,500 day care slots for children who come from two-parent, two-income families (but not children who are in care because of a court-ordered protective or preventative mandates, noted Maclean Guthrie of ACS.)
The mayor’s proposal also calls for a 17 percent cut to child welfare preventive services, and a 12 percent cut to homemaking services, which provide families with training and support like cleaning, meal preparation and child care. Foster care boarding homes would be cut by 3 percent across the board.
While the mayor’s financial plan does not hit the Department of Housing Preservation and Development too hard, affordable housing advocates worry that one of his proposals might worsen an already dire housing crisis. Bloomberg is asking the feds to allow the city more flexibility in how it spends its Community Development Block Grant, which is intended to benefit low- and moderate-income communities, and is most often targeted for housing or economic development. After the September 11 attacks, Congress allowed the city to increase the portion of the grants it uses on general public services from 15 percent to 25 percent. According to the Independent Budget Office, the city put much of that money into child care while shifting local tax dollars elsewhere. Bloomberg hopes an extension of that waiver will bring the city another $20 million in each of the next two years.
Irene Baldwin, president of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, believes this is a bad idea: Shifting money out of housing, she said, is “like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Keep the housing money in housing.”
Bloomberg does not necessarily disagree with the complaints about his service cuts: “I can’t find any program in the city that doesn’t really benefit people,” he admitted, “but the pain of balancing the budget is on everybody.”
Still, he expects the steps of City Hall will be busy with placards and rallying cries over the next few weeks. “I’ve learned the protests are a part of the job,” he said. “People have a right to protest and I encourage them to speak their minds.”