New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is racing against the clock to finalize planned budget cuts before the April 1 deadline, and with a projected deficit of $10 billion these cuts are going to bite. With lawmakers still wrangling over what to cut and where, and Cuomo advocating a government shutdown if no one can resolve the issue come April 1, cuts to homeless youth shelters and education facilities for disabled children are among the issues that have critics the most concerned.
While all homeless youth will be impacted if these proposed cuts go through, the Ali Forney Center (AFC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth homeless services center, warns that LGBTs will be especially affected under these plans.
The Governor’s budget proposal of a new Primary Prevention Incentive Program (PPIP) would consolidate a variety of child welfare, juvenile justice, and youth development programs into a competitive block grant. This proposal eliminates $85 million in existing youth and family services to create the new PPIP block grant, to be funded at $35 million. The grant will be allocated to local social services districts on a competitive basis forcing different localities to compete for vastly reduced funds for the protection of disadvantaged youth. State funds previously dedicated to homeless youth would be eliminated.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth suffering homelessness would be disproportionately harmed by these cuts. LGBT youth comprise 40% of the homeless youth population of New York City, and according to a 2007 census commissioned by the New York City Council, over 1,000 LGBT youth are without shelter every night. Homeless LGBT youth without shelter often are forced to resort to prostitution in order to survive, and approximately 20% become HIV infected. Homeless LGBT youth are at extraordinary risk of suicide, with 62% admitting to having considered or attempted suicide.
“I can only hope that the Cuomo Administration, in proposing these cuts, did not understand their impact on homeless youth,” said Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center. “It is unimaginable to me that the Governor would find it acceptable to throw homeless kids out of shelter beds, abandoning them to the streets to resolve a budget crisis. With so many youths’ lives at risk as they suffer on the streets waiting for shelter, we cannot give up even one bed. I am confident that the LGBT community will join us in letting the Governor know that we cannot tolerate such inhumane mistreatment of our most vulnerable youth.”
The Ali Forney Center (AFC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth homeless services center, is gathering support from the New York LGBT community and its allies. Concerned individuals in the thousands are reaching out to Governor Cuomo and to your State Senator and Assembly members and let them know you are strongly opposed to the plan to eliminate support for youth shelter beds and demand that youth shelter beds are fully restored in the 2011 budget.
Amid other serious concerns the cuts bring up, such as thousands being made unemployed and the impact on Medicaid services for workers that manage to retain their jobs, there is also the issue of numerous statutory changes for New York’s 4201 Schools for deaf, blind and severely physically disabled children.
Cuts will manifest in several ways, but one such action will be changing the funding structure for these schools to a ‘rate-setting’ model. This means that tuition would be paid by school districts and not the state – given that districts will be struggling with deep cuts, the 4201 Schools are concerned that districts will not choose to pay tuition to send students to 4201 Schools. Instead, they may opt to keep students in their own programs simply because it is more cost-effective to do so.
Furthermore, the eleven existing schools will be prohibited from having multidisciplinary teams to assess students, and prohibited further from developing IEP’s for students. All assessments and IEP development will therefore be done by the school district.
To quote Paul Norris, from Rochester School for the Deaf Parent and lead sponsor of our Care2 action on this matter, “The 4201 Schools are concerned that school districts may not have the expertise to conduct quality assessments and to develop appropriate IEP’s for students.”
Staff pension reductions, student placement once the 2012 changes take effect and a prohibitive environment due to cost-cutting are all pressing issues too.
While cuts are of course necessary to resolving a deficit problem, Cuomo’s budget appears to cut indiscriminately and without proper regard for the nature of the above programs and the vital services they provide.
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