United Neighborhood Houses applauds the City Council and Mayor de Blasio for an early budget agreement that makes significant improvements in services for New York City’s neighborhoods. Yesterday’s agreement takes important steps to expand access to core social services and reverse cuts for programs serving low-income New Yorkers.
We are thrilled that City Council leadership supported UNH’s recommendations in our report, “Summer Jobs for NYC’s Youth: A Plan for Expanding NYC’s Summer Youth Employment Program to Meet Demand by FY 2019.” In this budget, the City will expand SYEP and lay the groundwork for future expansion to serve 100,000 young people by the summer of 2018. The administration has baselined $38.5 million, which brings the total number of SYEP slots to 60,000 this summer—the largest investment in SYEP ever made by the City.
United Neighborhood Houses is also pleased to see a continued investment in Work, Learn & Grow, an innovative year-round youth employment program for 14-24 year olds.
We are greatly relieved that the City Council has restored summer camp for 26,000 middle school students. Without this needed restoration, thousands of children would have missed out on summer learning opportunities and would have been without the safe and enriching experiences their summer camps provide.
Many families face long waitlists when applying for after-school programs for their elementary school children. We commend the City Council for expanding access to year-round elementary after-school programs. We will continue to work with the City Council and the Administration in the coming year to achieve greater stability for and access to after-school programs.
We are very pleased that, thanks to the leadership of City Council, the budget agreement contains a $12 million investment in community-based adult literacy services. This funding is an important down-payment toward guaranteeing universal access to adult literacy programs for the 2.2 million New Yorkers lacking English proficiency and/or a high school diploma.
Older Adult Services
The baselining of $1.8 million to address case management waitlists is a step toward stability for older adult service providers. However, older adults deserve more security for the programs in their neighborhoods. The City relies too heavily on one-year allocations from the City Council instead of baselining investments for programs like senior centers and Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities. We call on the City to recognize the value and importance of older adults in every aspect of City life. We must invest in and plan for New York City to be a good place to grow old.
Mental Health Services
While we won’t know the status of several initiatives until the formal adoption of the budget, United Neighborhood Houses urges the City Council to restore the Geriatric Mental Health Initiative, Children Under Five Mental Health Initiative, and Autism Awareness Initiative. Without these restorations, many neighborhoods will lose longstanding quality programs community members have come to trust and depend upon.
Early Childhood Education
It is not yet clear the level of funding this budget makes available for salaries for early childhood educators in community-based organizations. However, the City must, in this budget, take action to achieve parity between the teachers, staff and directors in community-based early childhood education programs and their counterparts in Department of Education. The programs which most effectively educate the youngest New Yorkers are struggling to retain staff who cannot afford to live on inadequate salaries.