Last week, Coalition for the Homeless submitted testimony to the Fiscal Committees of the New York State Legislature on the NYS Executive Budget 2019. Although there are some positive developments in the recently released Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo has chosen to generally maintain the status quo in the face of record homelessness. For example, the Executive Budget does not include new supportive housing investments despite surging homelessness among single adults and delays in meeting annual targets for supportive housing production.
The budget also fails to fund the Home Stability Support rent subsidy proposal, which would bridge the difference between the public assistance shelter allowance and actual rents for households facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous conditions. Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi first introduced Home Stability Support in June 2016, at a time when 60,042 men, women, and children slept in NYC shelters each night. As the State has neglected to adopt this desperately needed rent subsidy, the number of people in NYC shelters has risen to an all-time record 63,636 people. While Albany has stalled, thousands more New Yorkers have fallen into homelessness.
The Coalition’s testimony included the following recommendations for State agencies to more effectively tackle homelessness:
Implement the Home Stability Support program introduced by Assemblymember Hevesi and Senator Krueger, endorsed by dozens of state and local elected officials.
Increase the Personal Needs Allowance for homeless individuals and families – for most, a paltry allowance of just $22.50 twice a month provided in lieu of public assistance – that has not been increased in decades.
Reject plan to continue the authority to withhold public assistance funds from localities related to homeless outreach plans and services.
Require NYS to participate equally in the non-federal share of the costs of shelters and rent supplements (other than HSS) to prevent and address homelessness.
Amend the NYC Shelter Savings law in lieu of the Shelter Rent requirement to eliminate sanctions and prohibit shelter rent statewide.
Reject the requirement that NYC contribute 10 percent toward the cost of Emergency Assistance to Families and Family Assistance.
Support the Executive’s provision of $1 million in general funds for Emergency Homeless Needs, and restore the TANF line for these needs targeted to groups with specified expertise at $1 million.
Provide $1 million for the Client Advocacy Program (at one time annually funded in the budget by the Legislature) through which chronically homeless disabled people are assisted in securing Federal SSI/SSDI, veterans benefits, and housing.
Budget Priorities, Other Agencies
HCR: Accelerate the Supportive Housing pipeline to complete 20,000 units in ten years to address pent-up need and record-low supportive housing placements. This will save costs by developing these units earlier as a hedge against rising land prices and labor contract inflation, and act as an economic stimulus proven to create jobs and tax revenue.
Reform the rent laws to eliminate de-control and vacancy bonuses, and to protect tenants affected by preferential rent and other landlord devices that harm tenants and thwart the rent regulation.
OMH: Increase funds for Crisis Respite and adequately fund community housing providers.
OCFS: Raise Foster Care prevention, reunification, and independent living rent subsidies to $600 per month.
SED: Authorize children’s camps to employ licensed social workers.
Congestion Pricing: Exempt mobile food program and homeless outreach vehicles serving homeless and disabled individuals – this policy will otherwise add over $12,000 or more to our food program costs each year.
DOH: Establish a regulatory framework/licensure statute to authorize the operation of medical respite programs to serve homeless people with medical needs that cannot be met in shelters, who do not require hospitalization or a nursing home level of care.
Rent Freeze/Real Property Tax Abatements: Expand rent increase exemptions and related real property tax abatements to include families with a disabled child or other family member who is not the head of household, and low income tenants on fixed incomes.
Corrections: Require proper discharge planning for parolees being released to the community so that they are not transferred to shelters, or kept in prison beyond their sentences.
Budget Priorities, Other Agencies
The full testimony can be read here.