An afterschool voucher heavily used by residents of Boro Park and Williamsburg was given a 60 percent boost in the budget deal agreed to by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council Friday night — which sponsors say will return the funding to the 2014 level, before it was cut by attrition.
The $85.2 billion budget includes an additional $10 million for the Priority 5 voucher, which helps low-income families who are not eligible for welfare. Along with additions to the voucher’s funding since Bill de Blasio became mayor in 2014, the program will now have more than $27 million.
The new numbers means that nearly 10,000 people will be able to be helped by the program.
“From my days as a City Council Member representing this community,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement to Hamodia, “I understand the dire need of families who rely on child care vouchers. That’s why I have made it a priority as mayor to ensure its continued funding. I am proud to announce, along with the City Council, an additional $10.43 million included in this year’s budget to help care for our children.”
Councilman Stephen Levin of Williamsburg fought for the additional funding in his role as chair of General Welfare committee, along with Councilman David Greenfield.
“We have a collective responsibility to ensure,” Levin said in a statement, “that families who are working hard to make ends meet have some assistance from our great city when it comes to child care.”
The waiting list currently stands as approximately 12,500, some of the names on for several years. Nearly 10 percent of them will be able to begin receiving vouchers with the new funding.
“We expect there will be a lot more people on the wait list who will now be able to get the vouchers,” Greenfield told Hamodia on Sunday. “Which is incredible, since as little as three and a half years ago we were fighting to just maintain the program.”
The Priority 5 voucher had been eliminated by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his final budget, in 2013. It was restored by Mayor de Blasio in 2014 and baselined — meaning it’s part of the budget itself, not something that had to be refought every year.
The mayor and several councilmen, including Levin and Greenfield, included $17 million for the program that year. It stood at that sum these past three years, but was now increased to $27.3 million for the upcoming fiscal year of 2018, which begins July 1.
The voucher stays with the child until he ages out at 13. It is then meant to go to a different child, using the funds which are newly available. However, Levin told Hamodia on Tuesday, for the past few years the city’s Administration for Children’s Services agency which administers the funds did not refill the slots. This means that about 1,000 fewer children are on the program than in 2014.
As a result, the program has fallen to a low of 8,445 slots, down from 9,500 in 2014. The funding increase, Levin said, would restore the number of actual slots to that level.
“The goal was to get the enrollment number at the very least back to the 2014 numbers,” Levin said. “The funding that was just added will get the enrollment back to that number.”
“My job right now,” he added, “is to make sure that it will keep on being refilled.”
The problem was brought to the mayor’s attention at a town hall meeting in Boro Park two weeks ago; he said he would look into it.
“I will say this,” Levin said — “Mayor de Blasio, I give a lot of credit to him for working with us in identifying the needs very quickly.”
For those on the waiting list, Levin said — “make sure that their information is up to date.”
The Democratic mayor joined Council members Friday night at City Hall to shake hands on the deal. The budget also includes $9 million to expand the Summer Youth Employment Program — commonly known as Youth Corps — from 65,000 to 70,000 slots. It also adds a property tax exemption for any veteran who served in a war.
The $85 billion budget is up sharply from the $70 billion spending blueprint four years ago, when Bloomberg was mayor.
Updated Sunday, June 4, 2017 at 8:53 pm Mayor statement