By Mark Hallum
Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) announced the passage of a budget resolution in the Assembly to challenge the one presented by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February that cut vital funds to seniors. The proposal is also aimed at improving the lives of families and focuses on education.
Cuomo’s budget proposal reduced funds to senior centers by about $17 million.
“If enacted, the Assembly’s one-house budget would ensure that recent graduates are not saddled with the burden of crushing student loan debt that takes decades to pay back and prevents them from buying their first home and affording other monthly expenses,” Braunstein said. “The Assembly spending plan also rejects Gov. Cuomo’s budget proposal to redirect Title XX funding that is used to support senior centers to other budgetary purposes. Restoring this funding would prevent 65 senior centers in New York City from closing.”
Braunstein and other elected officials voiced opposition to the Title XX funds being pulled from Cuomo’s budget proposal at a Bayside rally with Selfhelp Clearview Senior Center in late February. The discontinuation of funds could result in the closure of numerous senior centers across the city.
“For many seniors, coming to facilities such as Selfhelp is an important part of their daily routine, acting as a source for socializing and learning,” state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) said in February. “I have already received concerns from constituents who are afraid their senior center will be one of the 65 that will close if this proposal goes through. It is not fair to leave seniors and employees uncertain of their senior center’s fate.”
The proposal will offer Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, such as Samuel Field Y’s Clearview Assistance Program, with $2 million.
“The proposed cuts in the governor’s budget to Title XX funding that helps our seniors is unacceptable and would have a devastating impact on senior centers in Queens,” said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) at the rally. “These social services are a lifeline, and we need to ensure senior centers and other crucial programs are fully funded.”
Community Services for the Elderly program, which offers in-home services and care to seniors, will be funded by $2 million
“Small businesses fuel our state’s economy,” Braunstein said. “The Assembly’s budget proposal opens northeast Queens up for business by cutting taxes and helping our hardworking families get the jobs they need and deserve.”
The budget proposal will also provide $26.3 billion in education funding, an increase of $1.8 billion over last year, and $887 million more than was included in Cuomo’s proposal.
Tuition Assistance Program funds in the proposal would be raised to $5,500 per year and then increased to $6,500 over a four-year period to students who receive the award. Students from families earning less than $150,000 a year will be able to access free SUNY and CUNY tuition, an increase from the current $125,000 level, which will relieve the burden of rising tuition costs.
The Senate, Assembly and Cuomo will be negotiating the budget over the next few weeks.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall