Mayor de Blasio’s Budget: Long-Overdue Help for Homeless and Poor New Yorkers

Mayor de Blasio’s first budget plan provides long-overdue help to homeless and low-income New Yorkers – and reverses many of the misguided and harmful cutbacks proposed by the previous administration.

Mayor de Blasio released his FY 2015 preliminary budget plan yesterday and it includes many positive changes that the Coalition for the Homeless has long advocated. In addition, the Mayor’s budget plan thankfully does not include many of the damaging cutbacks proposed year after year by the Bloomberg administration.

Following are highlights of the de Blasio FY 2015 budget plan:

— Eliminates $52 million in annual payments the New York Housing Authority (NYCHA) was making to the NYPD, freeing up those funds (and more in future years) for NYCHA public housing maintenance and repairs – a policy change that housing advocates and the Coalition had long called for.

— Finally implements a requirement that recipients of HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) housing benefits pay only 30% of their income towards rent – a policy long advocated by AIDS activists and the Coalition but that had been repeatedly blocked by the Bloomberg administration.

— Adds $3.7 million ($1.3 million this fiscal year and $2.4 million in FY 2015) to add 76 beds for homeless and runaway youth, a woefully underserved population.

— Adds $1.3 million for security and other improvements at the Auburn and Catherine Street family shelters, two City-run shelters with notoriously abysmal conditions.

— Eliminates a $2 million annual cut that the Bloomberg administration tried to realize by illegally attempting to deny thousands of homeless adults access to emergency shelter under proposed new adult shelter eligibility rules, which the Coalition and the Legal Aid Society (with the help of the New York City Council) successfully blocked in State court.

— Eliminates another proposed Bloomberg cutback of $9.1 million from a proposal to force some homeless families to double-up in shelter units – a misguided and illegal proposal that the Coalition and the City Council successfully blocked for years.

— Does not include cutbacks long proposed by the Bloomberg administration to HASA supportive housing programs (like the Coalition’s Scattered-Site Housing Program).

In addition to these highlights, the de Blasio FY 2015 budget plan of course includes other more highly-publicized proposals that will enormously help homeless and poor New Yorkers, including:

— The Mayor’s proposed universal pre-K plan, which will primarily help low-income kids and families.

— Municipal ID cards for people without ID (including undocumented immigrants).

— Expansion of paid sick leave for working people (many of them low-wage workers).

— Funding for the NYPD Inspector General, who will oversee new legal prohibitions on discriminatory policing (including NYPD practices that discriminate against homeless people).

As always, the preliminary budget plan is only the first step in the City budget process, which concludes in late June when the final FY 2015 budget must be adopted. But Mayor de Blasio’s first budget plan is clear evidence of his administration’s shift to a more compassionate approach to vital services for the neediest New Yorkers.