The budget numbers attached to Governor Pataki’s proposal for redesigning welfare in New York simply don’t add up, according city officials and community advocates.
In New York State last year, the federal, state and local governments spent about $4.5 billion on Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the program that became an anachronism last fall when Congress passed its welfare reform block grants package into law.
AFDC’s replacement under the Pataki plan is a much cheaper $2.9 billion program called New York Works. While apparently costing $1.6 billion less, the program would still cover nearly the same number of families as before. Only a few hundred million dollars are accounted for in shifts of money to other new programs.
How to explain the dramatic reduction in cost? No one seems to know.
Welfare analysts say the governor’s unclear numbers could mean Albany hopes to shift more welfare costs to local governments. “There’s no way that a $4.5 billion program becomes a $2.9 billion program,” said Liz Krueger of the Community Food Resource Center. “Pataki must be figuring localities will come up with he money, or he’s saying, ‘Forget it, it’s not my problem.'”
City officials are asking Albany to clarify the difference. “Every time we try to chart the numbers our brains hurt,” said one top city official who asked to remain unnamed. “There’s no piece of paper that shows all the federal, state and city dollars adding up to one figure. I haven’t met a single soul yet who can explain it.”
Calls to the state Division of the Budget were referred to the Department of Social Services–which said at press time that it was trying to work out the numbers.