Dear Mayor De Blasio,
You can learn a lot about someone by seeing how they spend their money. Right now, as the leaders of organizations that serve thousands of New York’s survivors of gender-based violence, we’re looking to see how you allocate the budget at the most critical moment of your administration. The next few days will create a budget that will define your legacy.
Since March, the coronavirus pandemic has caused an economic fallout that has taxed the limits of both government and private philanthropy. The communities that we serve — mostly immigrant families in New York City — have been hit the hardest by both illness and financial devastation. Victims of domestic and sexual violence have suffered another layer of brutality during this time. We know that domestic and sexual violence are spiking, even as reports have drastically declined over the last two months. We know that immigrants are not getting the help they need to feed their families and pay bills. We know that Brown and Black communities are hit hardest by both diagnosis and death related to COVID-19 because of long-standing inequity. The common missions of our respective organizations are facing a multi-faceted crisis, a perfect storm that will drive up the need for our programs sky-high at a time when potential funding pitfalls threaten our ability to do what we do best: respond to these crises.
If you cut discretionary funding, you are causing one more crisis within the one we’re still navigating. But unlike coronavirus, the crisis of slashed funding is one you can fully control. Our programs serve as lifelines to countless individuals facing violence. When the wave of survivors who have been trapped in abusive homes are finally able to call for help, we are the people who will be answering their calls. Unless, of course, you cut our funding. It is your decision whether to hurt or help tens of thousands of victims and survivors fighting for their lives in NYC right now.
As leaders of color who employ and provide programming to communities of color and immigrants, we need must be recognized for the essential role we play to keep our communities safe, healthy, employed and thriving. What we don’t need is to get stiffed mid-contract for current discretionary funding awards. What we don’t need is to add to the cascade of layoffs because you cut funding at the time when our communities needed it most. We demand thriving community programs, instead of bloated law enforcement budgets. Even before COVID-19, culturally specific organizations like ours, led by women of color and staffed by community members, received a fraction of available philanthropic funding. In fact, Black-led organizations are 24 percent smaller than the revenues of their white-led counterparts, and the unrestricted net assets of the Black-led organizations are 76 percent smaller than their white-led counterparts. That is one thing COVID-19 hasn’t changed.
Mayor de Blasio, we urge you to reallocate at least $1 billion from the NYPD to youth and social services for FY21. In addition to funding programs that promote community safety and empowerment, we urge you to fully support discretionary funding and City Council initiatives that support the communities most in need.
To our fellow taxpayers and voters, we ask that you demand government investment for thriving NYC communities. You needed us when COVID hit and we have been there. We are on the ground providing food, PPE, emergency cash assistance, and working with survivors to navigate their safety. Stand with us and demand adequate funding for our essential workers.
A budget is a moral document. What will this one reveal about you? Now is the time to show how our city’s budget aligns with our values – the lives of our city’s most vulnerable communities depend upon it.
Margarita Guzmán is the Executive Director of Violence Intervention Program. Kavita Mehra is the Executive Director of Sakhi for South Asian Women. Niketa Sheth is the Chief Executive Officer of Womankind.