By Mark Hallum
The city Independent Budget Office is claiming Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal will not only provide major setbacks for child services, but also affect its juvenile justice programs.
Not only did the IBO’s new report double down on the Administration for Children’s Services’ statements made in February claiming the city agency would be underfunded by $129 million, but the cuts would also take $31 million from ACS’s Close to Home program, which places juvenile delinquents within the city.
“[Gov.] Cuomo’s 2019 executive budget for New York State contains two proposals that, if enacted, would substantially reduce state aid for the city’s Administration for Children’s Services and a third proposal that excludes the city from funding for a new state initiative,” the IBO report said. “The governor’s executive budget also proposes ending state funding of the city’s juvenile justice Close to Home program, which would cost the city more than $31 million in expected aid. In addition, implementation of the state’s initiative to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, which was signed into law last year, will also have implications for ACS’s budget. While the governor proposes allocating $100 million for the initiative, it excludes New York City from the funding.”
ACS Commissioner David Hansell’s letter to Cuomo in February called for the $129 million to be reinstated in the budget for programs which have already been slated to receive this funding.
The majority of the $129 million to be slashed in 2019 would eliminate child-protective staff and personnel in preventative programs such as family counseling and substance abuse treatment, according to ACS, and some of the funds to be cut from the budget have been invested in the agency’s investigative staff as well.
“I believe we all share a commitment to safeguarding children and supporting families, and for that reason we find this proposal startling, especially given the lack of any articulated basis for it — other than shifting to the city obligations that have historically been the state’s,” Hansell said in February. “The last time the state made such drastic cuts to New York City’s child welfare system, the results were disastrous.”
Hansell claimed the Family and Children’s Services Block Grant passed by the state in the 1990s imposed an “arbitrary limit” on state support for child welfare at the city level and resulted in a 57 percent spike in foster care admissions.
Case loads also increased by 24 percent, a number Hansell said is double what it is today.
By the early 2000s, the state got rid of the block grant and replaced it with the current shared investment model, which takes 50 percent of its funds from Albany, 40 percent from the city and 10 percent from federal coffers.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) issued a letter to Cuomo in February asking his administration to cooperate with Haskell and ACS in their needs.
“The current reimbursement system has contributed to lower child protective case loads and a decrease in juvenile justice detection and placements,” Peralta said challenging the governor to restore the difference in funds. ‘The proposed $320 million cap runs counter to our shared goal of keeping children out of the foster care and the juvenile justice system. When the state has implemented caps in the past, New York City foster care placements spiked. In 2017, there were 157 more placements than there were in 2016. This is not the time to cut off the very funding that can prevent more children from being institutionalized.”
But Budget Director Robert Mujica claimed the governor’s budget was not a break from precedence set by years prior and that it eliminated unnecessary costs and invested in progressive policies as well as infrastructure.
“The governor’s fiscal policies, which have ended the era of high spending growth and tax increases, are maintained in FY 2019 Budget. For the eighth consecutive year, the budget is balanced and limits spending growth to 2 percent – a record of spending restraint unparalleled in sate history,” Mujica said. “The 2 percent cap, self-imposed by Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature, has been made possible by fundamental reforms to reduce state costs.”
The majority of $129 million to be slashed in 2019 would eliminate child-protective staff and personnel in preventative programs such as family counseling and substance abuse treatment, according to ACS, and some of the funds to be cut from the budget have been invested in the agency’s investigative staff as well.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall