How will the NYS Budget for 2021 Affect Children?
The New York State Budget for 2021 was historic in its attempt to fund the rising Coronavirus pandemic and in making progress on certain issues that impact children and families. Originally slated as an emergency budget that was expected to be approved weeks earlier to respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis, it was approved on April 3rd as the first budget in recent history to be voted on and approved virtually. The Budget designates funding for programs, services, and initiatives across New York and provided funding for emergent and recurring issues.
WCA’s Budget Priorities
The State Budget delivered on many of WCA’s priorities for Westchester’s children and youth. It provides funding to improve maternal health outcomes following childbirth, to support and increase certain maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting programs, and to make childcare more accessible (with federal funding during COVID-19) for more families across Westchester and New York State. It also maintains funding for after-school youth development programs, helping to close the achievement gap and enabling families to work toward economic stability. Similarly, the State Budget maintains funding for children and youth involved with child welfare.
The suggested cuts to state funding of Medicaid that WCA advocated fiercely against were scaled back. The Budget does not require counties to pay a portion of Medicaid as expected, but it does require them to pay a portion of county revenue to fund struggling hospitals and nursing homes. It also establishes paid sick leave which supports thousands of families in Westchester by protecting their jobs when they need to take off from work due to illness.
The 2021 NY State Budget does address advocacy efforts to stem the school-to-prison pipeline in schools and in the justice system. The Budget maintains last year’s funding levels for alternative approaches to school discipline and allocates $10 million in new funding to school districts for student mental health support. On another positive note, the Budget made progress in areas that will impact Westchester by increasing state investment in local Raise the Age implementation by $50 million and making two new changes to the Raise the Age Law starting October 1, 2020:
An end to solitary confinement for 16- and 17-year-olds, bringing New York in line with developmentally-appropriate best practices prohibiting the use of extended isolation and solitary confinement.
An end to the incarceration of Adolescent Offenders in adult prisons and a transfer of all youth to Office of Children and Families’ age-appropriate detention centers, allowing youth to access educational and vocational training, mental health services and counseling, and services to engage family and promote successful community re-entry upon release.
In addition, the Budget provides housing and services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness and mental illness. Recognizing the importance of the 2020 Census, the Budget also allocates funding to ensure all New Yorkers are counted, and as a result, that Westchester and other counties will receive the necessary federal funding and information we need to adequately support children and families.
In the year ahead and until next year’s State Budget, WCA will continue to fight proudly and unwaveringly to expand and advance youth justice and school discipline reforms, child and youth homelessness supports, early childhood and home visiting programs, and youth development and civic engagement efforts — including voting and community advocacy. We hope you will join us in making Westchester a place where all children are healthy, safe and prepared for life’s challenges.
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