New York City’s record budget of nearly $100 billion for the next fiscal year includes major boosts to programs that could benefit the most vulnerable children and ease their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Youth advocates and human service providers hailed the deal announced late last month. It includes $200 million to expand summer school and grows the city’s popular summer youth employment program to $134 million. The 2021-2022 budget also provides more funding for full-time mentor-coaches for foster youth and enhances spending on family enrichment centers, designed to support struggling families before they come under scrutiny from child welfare authorities.
In a recently released statement, the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York — which helps lead a campaign of more than 150 child care and youth service providers, educators, parents and advocates — described the budget as instrumental “in New York’s recovery and our city’s ability to address long-standing economic disparities and race-based injustices.” The committee said the spending plan “makes robust and targeted investments to address housing insecurity, hunger, educational inequity and learning loss.”
The group also praised the budget’s increased funding for rental vouchers that can be used by families and youth facing eviction or housing instability, and increased investments in food pantries and shelter security workers.
The deal between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city council reached June 30 includes the $200 million for a “Summer Rising” initiative which last week opened 800 sites citywide to serve more than 200,000 students. In the past, only students who have fallen behind in school and need remedial coursework have been allowed to participate in summer school programming.
This year’s expanded, full-time offerings running through late August will include a mix of academic classes and field trips, arts activities and outdoor recreation. The programs are designed to “provide a bridge to next school year and allow students to reconnect with one another and with their schools,” according to the Department of Education.
The city’s six-week Summer Youth Employment program for young people ages 14 to 24, will pay roughly 75,000 young people at least $15 per hour, at 12,000 worksites this year alone. According to the Administration for Children’s Services, 959 youth in foster care applied to the program with the agency’s help, and 40 college students in foster care will work for the agency as interns.
To address other needs of foster youth, the city budget will provide $20 million this fiscal year for the coach-mentor model known as Fair Futures — funding that was not included in the mayor’s preliminary budget proposal earlier this year, sparking public rallies. Over two years, 3,000 young people ages 11 through 21 have been provided one of roughly 350 Fair Futures “coaches,” tutors or middle school specialists and they have attracted vocal proponents. As of May 2021, 1,185 youth in foster care took advantage of Fair Futures coaching.
“The City’s decision to baseline funds for Fair Futures and fund the program for youth up to age 21 signifies a critical step forward towards offering NYC youth in foster care the support they deserve,” the Fair Futures campaign announced earlier this month. The campaign, comprised of youth and their advocates, human services nonprofits and private philanthropic foundations, has reported the program “dramatically” improves outcomes for young people in foster care.
In a win for the campaign, $12 million out of this year’s $20 million in funding will now be “baselined” for Fair Futures, and automatically appear in the budget each year, whether or not lawmakers take any action.
Commissioner David Hansell of the Administration for Children’s Services, the city child welfare agency that administers the program, said the deal “underscores the de Blasio administration’s commitment to providing youth in foster care with the services and support they need to succeed in all aspects of their lives, including school and work, and to transition to successful adulthood.”
The budget also expands the agency’s family enrichment centers program, which was first announced by Hansell and de Blasio in May. The centers are drop-in community spaces run by nonprofits and open to the public, with a unique focus on connecting vulnerable families to resources before crises occur —a model that has garnered praise from child welfare policymakers nationwide. The city’s three current centers are now slated to grow to 30 citywide.
This year’s “Recovery Budget” is Mayor de Blasio’s last after two terms in office. Supported by more than $14 billion in federal aid and stronger-than-expected tax collections, the city’s next budget is roughly $10.5 billion, or 12%, higher than the previous fiscal year budget.
Without the additional funds from federal pandemic assistance, the incoming mayor is likely to face a less-robust funding stream, and social service groups are relieved to have secured funding while they can. Analysts foresee budget deficits of $4 billion in each of the next three years.