Coalition Testifies on New York State Executive Budget 2018

The formidable task of addressing New York City’s record homelessness crisis requires a concerted effort by all levels of government – including collaboration between the City and the State. Shelly Nortz, the Coalition’s Deputy Executive Director for Policy, presented testimony last Tuesday before the Fiscal Committees of the NYS Legislature on the State Executive Budget 2018. In the face of a historic homelessness crisis, New York State continues to shift the costs of sheltering and housing homeless New Yorkers to localities such as New York City, while political disputes about the allocation of housing funds in recent years have delayed desperately needed new supportive housing development. The testimony outlines how the 2018 Executive Budget maintains the status quo in the face of unprecedented need:

There are no new supportive housing investments despite the three-year lag in starting the new capital investments.

The caps, cost-shifts, and other limits on funding for shelters and rental assistance remain as in prior years.

And Governor Cuomo now promises a new fiscal penalty for services NYS doesn’t even fund: An extraordinarily ill-advised withholding of public assistance funds for localities that fail to offer and adequately implement homeless outreach plans and services. We have no problem with planning for and doing outreach – we reach out with warm food, clothing, and offers of help 365 days per year. But for the State to withhold the small proportion of its own funds that localities receive to provide for the aid, care, and support of the needy required by the NYS Constitution as a penalty for failure to provide adequate homeless outreach planning and services is for the State to further shirk its own responsibilities under the Constitution.

The Executive Budget removes $9 million from a prior year’s appropriation for NYC housing vouchers; allocates too little to help OMH-funded housing providers keep up with the rising costs of housing and services; and offers no new funding to local districts expected to plan and implement new homeless outreach programs.

Gov. Cuomo also suggested in his State of the State address that he expects localities to forcibly remove homeless people from the streets to shelters or hospitals, an old idea that lacks any evidence basis. This approach is sure to drive people in need into hiding, thereby undercutting skilled outreach workers who know how to win the trust of those whom they visit to offer food, clothing, health care, and voluntary services including shelter placement and housing assistance.

Instead, the State should more effectively address homelessness by implementing the Home Stability Support program, increasing the Personal Needs Allowance, participating equally in the non-Federal share of the costs of shelters and rent supplements, accelerating the supportive housing pipeline, and providing adequate funding to other homelessness and housing programs.

The full testimony can be read here.