STATEMENT: Community Voices Heard Responds to New York State’s Shameful Budget
May 2, 2023
Contact: Juanita O. Lewis, Executive Director, Community Voices Heard, firstname.lastname@example.org, 914-519-8588
NEW YORK – We are deeply disappointed by Governor Hochul and the New York State Legislature’s budget that blatantly ignores regular, hardworking New Yorkers. The budget plan particularly harms Black and brown New Yorkers by codifying poverty wages, forcing more tenants out of their homes, and disinvesting from our communities.
New Yorkers work hard to pay rent and stay in their homes, but they are facing record rent increases and evictions – particularly Black women, who are evicted at twice the rate of white tenants. The Governor and Legislature had the opportunity to create common-sense tenant protections through Good Cause eviction protections and the Housing Access Voucher Program; but instead of protecting tenants, the Governor proved that she is only interested in protecting her real estate donors. The State also had the chance to right decades of inequity by taxing New York’s wealthiest corporations and residents, and investing that public money into our communities. Instead, they opted to continue tax breaks for billionaires.
The meager minimum wage increase is also an embarrassment. $17 is not a livable wage in New York, and will continue to force people of color into poverty – 70% of minimum wage workers are Black, Latinx or Asian. This out-of-touch “raise” puts New York behind California, Washington, and Hawaii’s statewide wages and ignores the record inflation and cost-of-living crisis that families are facing. A recent study found that 50% of working-age New York City residents are struggling to cover their basic needs, up from 36% just two years ago. Unable to make ends meet, Black families are leaving New York City in record numbers.
Instead of investing in housing and good-paying jobs, elected leaders rolled back bail reform laws that were designed to ensure that low-income people were not jailed pre-trial simply because they are unable to buy their way out like the wealthy. Leaders put fear before facts, in a move that will increase the amount that taxpayers spend on jails, leaving less money to spend on things that actually make our communities safer – like quality education and housing people can afford.
Thanks to advocacy from our public housing members and partners, however, the Legislature was able to secure $391 million in rental debt relief for public housing and subsidized housing residents, who were previously excluded from Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds. This is one bright spot in an otherwise dismal budget. But even this investment doesn’t meet the full need – public housing residents have $589.4 million in rental debt statewide that accumulated during COVID, and they deserve relief just like private housing tenants.
Despite many disappointments, there were two other silver linings in the budget. The State will fully fund Foundation Aid – their main funding source for public school districts – for the first time since it was created, and will base the allocations on socioeconomic need. The State will also fund the Public Campaign Finance Board, which will increase the reach of small donors and help reduce the influence of big money in politics. These are the result of years of organizing work for structural reform.
The State now has six weeks left in the legislative session to right their wrongs. We call on Speaker Carl Heastie and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins to deliver for working-class, low-income, and Black and brown New Yorkers. New York State must pass Good Cause eviction and the Housing Access Voucher Program, and must increase the minimum wage to $21.25.
New Yorkers work hard – doing essential jobs, caring for their families, and contributing to their communities. And every hard-working New Yorker should have a decent home and be able to make ends meet. This budget showed that the Governor is out of touch. Our elected leaders in the Senate and the Assembly must step up and deliver for regular New Yorkers.