==> The state has slated $12 million of its $335 million welfare budget surplus to HPNAP, which supports food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens. While that more than doubles the program’s current $10.8 million budget, the new money can only be spent on people who are eligible for federal benefits-raising the possibility that volunteer food providers will have to start collecting personal information from clients. Advocates had hoped the legislature would use the federal money for food stamps for legal immigrants.
==> Housing funding was pushed up $16.75 million past what Pataki had proposed last January, including a $4 million raise for the Housing Trust Fund, a $1 million bump for RESTORE, and a new half-million dollar Urban Homeownership Assistance Program.
==> After a devastating veto of their state support last year, Legal Aid and Legal Services lawyers find themselves this year with $6.1 million statewide to represent clients in civil cases–most, but not all, of the $6.8 million they were getting two years ago. About $3.4 million of the new cash will go to New York City efforts. While their criminal and Family Court operations were not directly hit by the cuts, the budget crunch had hampered lawyers’ ability to represent domestic violence victims, immigrants, the elderly, the homeless and other indigent clients.
==> The City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court got its moxie back–and then some. A year and a half after its state funding was summarily axed, the housing court advisory group had its budget flow fully restored by the legislature. In the meantime, the group raised more than $250,00 from the city.
==> In a last-minute reprieve, Governor Pataki backed off from a change to state law that would have limited special aid for welfare recipients who can’t afford their rent. Currently, more than 26,000 families are receiving extra state shelter subsidies under a decision from the Jiggetts lawsuit. The governor was reportedly eager to do an end-run around the issue by rewriting state law to limit rent aid to what it was before Jiggetts ever happened–$286 a month for a family of three.