Below is a brief overview of some key provisions in New York State’s 2017-2018 Budget that may have an impact on the health and well-being of Long Islanders, especially those living in poverty.
Free College Tuition
New York students from families making less than $100,000 a year (which will increase to $125,000 per year by 2019) will be eligible for free tuition at SUNY or CUNY schools under the “Excelsior Scholarship.” The initiative won’t cover room and board and students will have to meet residency, grade point, and class load rules to participate. The program will be phased in over three years and also sets aside $19 million for tuition aid for students attending private colleges. Upon graduating, recipients will have to live and work in New York for several years or the grants will be converted into loans. The state estimates nearly 113,000 families with college age students (55%) on Long Island would be eligible for this program.
Community Health Advocates
The CHA program received $3.5 million in funding, which was less than the requested $4.75 million, but more than was allocated in last year’s budget. The Community Health Advocates network provides critical consumers assistance and counseling related to obtaining, utilizing, and resolving issues with all types of health insurance coverage. HWCLI, as well as other Long Island non-profits, has provided services through the CHA network for over 5 years and appreciates NYSDOH’s on-going support in assisting low-income and vulnerable families with navigating health insurance.
Legal Aid for Immigrants
The budget includes $10 million for immigrant legal aid efforts, with $4 million set aside specifically to assist New York immigrants at risk for deportation. The funding includes money for the Vera Institute of Justice as well as the New York Immigration Coalition, Empire Justice Center, Northern Manhattan Immigration Coalition for Immigrant Rights, the Hispanic Federation and Catholic Charities Community Services. HWCLI applauds the State for providing additional funding for much needed legal services for this extremely vulnerable group. Since 2014, more than 7,800 children have arrived on Long Island from Central and South America to reunite with family after crossing into the United States. To coordinate and convene the work of agencies assisting recently arrived children, HWCLI facilitates efforts between legal, education and social service agencies to provide integrated services, collaborate on advocacy, share best practices, and leverage limited resources- including legal supports and services.
Child Care Tax Credit
The final budget amends New York State’s child and dependent care tax credit to increase the tax credit for families earning between $60,000 and $150,000 per year. The benefit for the average household will increase from $169 to $376 and assist more than 200,000 families in offsetting the costs of child and dependent care.
Premiums and co-payments will not increase for those enrolled in the Essential Plan with incomes between 138-150% of FPL as initially proposed by the Governor in the Executive budget. This proposal would have placed additional financial burden on low-income individuals and households making between $16,643 and $18,090 for a household of 1 and between $33,948 and $36,900 for a family of 4.
Child Care Subsidies
The final budget cuts funding for child care subsidies for low-income families with incomes less than 200% of the federal poverty level by $7 million. Currently, 83% of eligible families do not have access to these subsidies because of inadequate funds. It is estimated that the cut will result in an additional 900 families losing their child care subsidy.
Enhanced Safety Net Hospitals
The budget allocates $20 million over 2 years to enhanced safety net hospitals, a new category of hospitals that serve low-income New Yorkers. To meet the new criteria, hospitals must show that in any of the last three years at least 50 percent of their patients were uninsured or on Medicaid, at least 40 percent of inpatient discharges were billed to Medicaid and no more than 25 percent of patients had commercial insurance.
Farm to Foodbank
The budget includes a new tax credit for farmers who donate fruits, vegetables, and other farm products to local Food Banks- the credit is limited to $5,000 per year but will help farmers offset the harvesting and transportation costs of moving surplus crops that might otherwise go to waste.
Click here to read the entire budget.