Mayor Bill de Blasio came to speak to residents of Williamsburg Wednesday night, to discuss many long-standing issues relating to the community – from parking restrictions hurting shomrei Shabbos to working families waiting for Child Care and After School services, and many other issues throughout the council-manic district.
Among the announcements that the mayor made at the district’s Town Hall, hosted by Councilman Stephen Levin, was that the city will send out letters this week to working parents who are on the Child Care and After School Vouchers wait list for years offering them a voucher. The city will fund 1,700 new vouchers, thanks to over $15 million in additional funding provided by the mayor and the City Council in the current budget years. The issuance of those vouchers was delayed, but in more good news, the mayor assured that the funding will be fully utilized, as intended by the council and the administration, unlike in the past, when delays in issuance of the vouchers resulted in a reduction in assistance for working families.
Mayor de Blasio also announced that the parking meters on Division Avenue and Roebling Street in Williamsburg will be reprogrammed for Fridays, to enable shomrei Shabbos to park there on Fridays. Currently, those meters regulations are in effect on Fridays till 7 p.m. During winter Fridays, when Shabbos begins as early as 4:13 p.m., Orthodox Jews were unable to park their cars at these streets.
After-school vouchers are given to large families for supervised extracurricular activities on a sliding scale. Families under social service supervision are given higher priority, but many Orthodox families have qualified for some of the other priorities.
For example, Priority 5 benefits families where both parents work at least 20 hours a week but are within poverty guidelines. Priority 7 is for those with significant needs, such as large families, where only one parent works. That last grouping has not been funded in recent years, although it receives any money left over after the other priorities are funded.
The funding for the after-school vouchers, heavily used by residents of Boro Park and Williamsburg, was given a 60 percent boost in the 2017 budget — which returned the funding to the 2014 level, before it was cut by attrition.
An additional $10 million for the Priority 5 voucher, which helps low-income families who are not eligible for welfare, was added to this year’s NY budget.
It was noted at the time of the budget, that 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 after passing the budget in June, “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.”
Now, with the mayor’s announcement, many families will be able to begin receiving vouchers.
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 that it’s part of the budget itself, not something that had to be refought every year.