Citizens’ Committee for Children Executive Director Jennifer March Calls on Government Leaders to Protect and Prioritize the Needs of Children and Families in Response to COVID-19
Released March 18, 2020
“Swift action is needed now across all levels of government to meet the needs of children and families and ensure that the health and human services system can continue critical operations.
We are heartened that federal leaders are working on a stimulus bill that provides states and localities with increased Medicaid funding, and greater flexibility with nutrition aid, unemployment and paid sick leave. The package before the Senate is just a first step, and it’s crucial that subsequent federal stimulus efforts should be informed by states and localities as well as the emerging needs from the nonprofit community. We need greater investments and long-term support to offset job loss across all sectors; emergency investments in a wide array of human services including child care, child welfare and homeless services, among others; as well as facilitated access to essential medical supplies to communities across the country and to human services providers on the frontlines.
At the state level, we wholeheartedly support plans by Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to pass emergency paid sick leave today. However, we remain deeply concerned that the state’s FY ’20-21 proposed budget, that may be adopted as early as this weekend, continues to include $1.4 billion in cost-shifts to New York City. We urge our state leaders to embrace the federal relief package and adopt a state budget that opposes cost-shifts to localities, places a moratorium on all cuts to Medicaid and children’s behavioral health care, and in fact increases investments in health and behavioral health care. These measures are critical so that we can ensure that New York City and counties across the state have the revenue needed to respond to local needs during this public health crisis.
We also call on state leaders to pass and fund Home Stability Support legislation to provide statewide rental subsidies. The current pandemic and shuttering of many employment sectors will undoubtedly result in more families facing housing instability and the threat of homelessness. A moratorium on evictions combined with a statewide rental subsidy will provide critical and stabilizing support. In sum, the proposed cost shifts to New York City and other counties cannot stand, and there is no doubt these state cuts will negatively impact the ability of counties (including New York City) to provide supports to families who are not only facing fears around their health, but also facing loss of income and increased need for human services.
At the city level, we are encouraged that the administration is actively formulating guidance to articulate which human services are essential and must remain open and which should be allowed to close. Furthermore, we will hold the city accountable for ensuring that all nonprofit human services contracts receive planned financial support as well as the resources needed to be responsive in this time of crisis. It is anticipated that we will see greater need for public assistance, food aid, shelter, as well as needs related to child welfare and domestic violence. Furthermore, the human services workforce requires child care much like health care professionals. Responding to these needs requires a sector that’s on solid financial footing for weeks and potentially months of the COVID-19 crisis.
We are only in the beginning stages of understanding what the impact of this public health crisis will be on the health and human services infrastructure, and on the lives and futures of New York’s children and families. As this crisis continues to unfold, we must ensure that all levels of government are collaborating in their responses. Successfully addressing the needs of children and families requires robust support for the health and human services sector working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.”