CPC Response to the Federal Families First Bill and COVID-19 Recommendations for New York State
CPC is responding to our community members' most critical needs during COVID-19, providing meals for seniors, home care, and the most up-to-date information and resources in language. However, we also recognize that public policy at the City, State, and Federal level is critical to not just addressing this emergency, but in laying the ground work for long term recovery. To that end, we have been working with elected and government partners, as well as allies, to ensure that the needs of Asian-American and communities of color, immigrant, and low-income New Yorkers- those hit hardest by COVID-19, are centered in legislative and budget decisions.
CPC applauds swift action by the House to provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic to deeply invest in food programs and unemployment benefits. We are grateful to the New York Congressional Delegation for their decisive action, and urge them to continue to press for policies that provide deep, long-term relief for all New Yorkers. We call on the Senate to act immediately so that additional stimulus and recovery packages can follow.
If passed, the Federal bill will provide much needed relief in New York’s Medicaid budget crisis. We urge the State to use this opportunity to shore up our healthcare system and implement drastic relief measures, particularly for working New Yorkers, to fill existing gaps and expedite relief for families. Below is a brief of our recommendations for New York State emergency Response to COVID-19.
CPC COVID- 19 Recommendations for New York State
A crisis of this scale necessitates swift response, but also a thoughtful budget. We urge the State to prioritize an emergency relief package for workers, families, and the organizations that are responding to this crisis on the ground, and resist cuts to Medicaid and critical programs. If this cannot be accomplished swiftly, we recommend an extender on the budget to allow for non-essential decisions to be made once the State has a better understanding of the final federal aid package and the scope of what recovery in New York will require. Our key recommendations include:
Defend Medicaid & Raise Revenue
- Medicaid cuts are indefensible, especially during a public health crisis. Insistence on the “global cap” has done nothing to support working New Yorkers to date, which has become even more evident during the response to COVID19. With the closure of all but essential services, a period of economic loss is inevitable. The State must ask if its willing to weigh temporary economic slowdown against the long-term public health and resiliency of average New Yorkers. Instead of Medicaid caps that would force localities to raise taxes on working New Yorkers displaced by COVID19, New York State must swiftly enact fair and just taxes on the ultra-wealthy and corporations, on pied-a-terre property investors, and stock trade sales taxes, and invest in the communities hardest hit by COVID-19.
Invest in Workers
- New York state must expand paid sick leave laws to ensure all workers are covered, regardless of employer size and regardless of contractor, freelancer, or immigration status. Sick workers should not have to leave their homes out of fear of lost wages nor should workers who are self-isolating to stop the spread.
- New York needs a worker stimulus and wage replacement bill to replace wages lost to date. Whether through forced closure or loss of business, New York must provide replacement for lost wages as well as plans to stimulate the workforce once the state recovers.
- New York must use a higher percentage of its TANF funding on cash and basic assistance to protect needy families. Unspent TANF dollars are carried over year after year into rainy day funds or are redirected into other state services. As of 2018, New York has accumulated $547 million in unspent TANF block grant funds, the equivalent of 22% of what the state receives in TANF each year. The time for rainy day emergencies is now. Reserve TANF funds must be spent now to provide much needed basic assistance, childcare, and work support.
Ensure Continuity in Human Services
- Pay contracted human services providers their full budgeted expenses through the end of the next fiscal year even if they are unable meet their contractual obligations due to this public health crisis. This ensures that they are able to provide emergency services and meet urgent needs of their community members, as well as ensures that a sizable workforce does not experience layoffs during a period of economic turmoil.
- Given the expedited budget timeline, critical community and human services are at risk of being left behind, a move that would devastate New Yorkers who rely on these programs and services to advance their families and communities. We recommend that the State provide a one year extension for new and existing contracts to mitigate service disruption, especially contracts through Nutrition Outreach and Education Program (NOEP), the Office for New Americans (ONA), and the youth and afterschool programs through New York State Education Department (NYSED), as well as provide additional emergency funding to respond to COVID-19.
- Support human services and community providers whose workers have stayed on the front lines of social service provision in this time of crisis. New York must ensure the “3for5” increase for nonprofits and direct services organizations and enhance funding for the Settlement House Program to $5 million.
Protect Immigrant New Yorkers and New Yorkers in Detention
- While the State shuts down nearly all its services, ICE agents continue to take advantage of disinformation and public distress to access to our courts and hospitals. New York must declare all hospitals and courthouses off limits to ICE by passing the Protect Our Courts Act and declaring hospitals a sanctuary space. New York must also enhance the Liberty Defense Fund to $20 million and the Office of New Americans Opportunity Centers to $10 million and pass the Access to Representation Act.
- New York must reject any attempts to roll back the bail reforms passed last session and must go further to release vulnerable people in jail. New Yorkers have been horrified by the news of COVID-19 spreading in prisons and detention centers, where incarcerated New Yorkers have no access to soap, sanitizer, proper medical care, and limited contact with family and loved ones. New York must stay committed to bail reform and go further to reduce the jailed population by releasing vulnerable and aging people, releasing people on technical parole violations, and halting the criminalization of poverty by ceasing the fines and arrests for minor infractions like turnstile evasion that unnecessarily entrap New Yorkers in the criminal justice system. New York must pass statewide policy that ceases cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE and pass the Diginity for Immigrants in New York State Act to and release any immigrant New Yorker whose only violation is federal immigration laws.
Protect Tenants, Homeowners, and Small Businesses
- New York must have a rent and mortgage freeze and moratorium on evictions, foreclosure sales, and utility shut offs, for tenants and small businesses alike. No New Yorker should go without heat or water or be left without a home because they missed payments due to lost wages. Similarly, the necessary curfews and shutdowns that mitigate the spread of COVID19 will mean a drastic loss of income for small business owners. Moratoriums should extend through the duration of the crisis and allow a period of recovery. No New Yorker should lose their home or livelihood because they are working together to flatten the curve and keep New York safe. It should also implement a rent and utilities abatement program for the individuals and small businesses hardest hit.
- New York State has led the way in protecting consumers from price gougers. However, many necessary preventative items like soap, hand sanitizer, and over the counter medications remain scarce and reflect a larger supply chain that is increasingly more complex and expensive for small and local businesses to navigate. New York must continue to pursue price gouging at the highest levels, including online reseller platforms that hurt local shops. Fines levied from price gouging should be directly invested back into emergency assistance programs for workers and small businesses.