New York Council member Vanessa Gibson has confessed that 2020 is the most challenging year for her as a seventh year council member. She said this while observing that the fiscal year 2021 budget is not a perfect one, but that it marks the first step in ensuring investments are made in the city.
In her response to the New York City council’s $88 billion budget for the year 2021, Gibson said as members of the City Council, they had the challenging responsibility of making tough decisions that would have a long-term impact on all New Yorkers, including those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We started this budget from a place of zero with the Administration unwilling to fund and support valuable safety net programs that have been lifelines for our residents, children and families.Without federal support, a $2 billion cut from Albany, a $7 billion loss in sales and revenue, a $9 billion budget deficit and the inability to borrow money, the City Council attempted to ensure that we protect guidance counselors, social workers, educators and many essential workers who have been on the front lines during this pandemic. This year proved to be the most difficult in my seven years in the Council, as we balanced an $88.19 billion budget amid an unprecedented public health crisis,” said Gibson.
Gibson said her district was still grappling with the devastating aftermath from COVID-19, gun violence, food insecurity, stable housing, rent-burdened tenants, families who have lost their income, the closure of small businesses, and youth in desperate need of employment and activities for the summer.
She said she was well aware of these challenges because she was in her community everyday with the constituents.
“In our negotiations with the Mayor, the Council fought hard to protect jobs, education, healthcare, critical social services, senior centers, youth initiatives, and other essential programs that support vulnerable populations and those that were the most impacted by the pandemic,” she said.
Gibson said the fiscal year 2021 budget includes significant cuts to the NYPD, which has not happened in years adding that it would not have been a priority without the protests in the city and across the country against police violence and structural racism.
“Overtime reductions, eliminating the Cadet class and future Academy classes, reducing uniformed headcount and shifting the responsibility of the NYPD away from School Safety, School Crossing Guards and homeless services, is a huge step, considering we came from a place of complete resistance and opposition from the Administration. This is a process that will continue well beyond the budget adoption,” said Gibson.
Among other programs Gibson mentioned would be catered for in the fiscal year 2021 budget are the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), the COMPASS, Beacon, and Cornerstone summer camp programs, which saw its budget pegged at $115.8 million.
She said the restoration of the program would see more than 35,000 youth participate in job training programs and at least 70,000 children would enjoy a summer camp experience.
Gibson said the FY21 budget includes $8.4 million for senior centers, $6.5 million for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, and $4 million to support Holocaust survivors, the groups she said were one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19.
On support for students, Gibson said: “As a result of the pandemic, our youth had to adjust from being in a classroom to continuing their education through remote learning. To ensure when they return to school that they have the necessary emotional and social support, the Council restored $100 million in Fair Student Funding, $11.6 million for the Single Shepherd guidance counselors, $4.8 million for 38 social workers, and $1.8 million for other social-emotional supports for students. This budget also funds school health programs so that there is a school nurse for every public school building.”
Gibson said the CUNY Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) would be maintained with $34.3 million to help students stay on track and graduate.
She said CUNY ASAP helps students earn an associate degree within three years by providing the necessary financial, academic, and personal support to help them excel.
On the funding for immigrant New Yorkers, Gibson noted that the Council fought to include $9.8 million for adult literacy, $2 million for the Immigrant Health Initiative, $4 million for unaccompanied minors and families, and $16.6 million for the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project were included in the budget.
“Culture and the arts help shape the identity of New York City and can increase the overall well-being of our community. This budget included $20.2 million for cultural programs and Cultural Institutions Groups, $14.3 million and $1 million for the CASA and SU-CASA initiatives, respectively, and $3.7 million for the Coalition Theaters of Color initiative,” said Gibson.
On strengthening Small Businesses and Workers, Gibson said with the current economic climate, it was imperative for the city to do all it can to support the small businesses and workers who would help New York City recover.
She said the budget would provide $1.6 million to Chamber on the Go, $3 million for Worker Coop Business Development, $1 million for Construction Site Safety Training, and $2.8 million for the Day Laborer Workforce Initiative.
“To the advocates, youth, community groups and activists, I want to thank all of you for taking to the street and demanding more from your leaders in government. This work does not conclude with the budget, because we will continue to break down the school to prison pipeline, end structural inequality and support vital social net programs that New Yorkers desperately need,” concluded Gibson.