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Politics

New York Lawmakers Want to Boost Funding for Housing, Home Care

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s Democratic-controlled Assembly and Senate are both pushing to boost funding for housing and home care in this year’s budget.

Legislative leaders have spent weeks negotiating with Gov. Kathy Hochul over the state budget, which lawmakers must pass by April 1.

Both chambers released their own budget proposals this weekend.

The Democratic governor’s proposed budget included a $2 billion pool of funding for extra COVID-19 relief.

Both legislative proposals would boost funding for rental relief, utility debt and home care. Neither included extra relief for undocumented workers, while the Assembly’s lacked the Senate’s proposed statewide ban on fossil fuels in new construction.

RENTAL RELIEF, HOUSING VOUCHERS

Both the Assembly and Senate are proposing to add at least $1 billion more in funding to New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which has run out of money.

The state originally received $2.4 billion in federal funding for the program, which helps landlords and tenants struggling with unpaid back rent and utilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Assembly proposes spending $1.25 billion, while the Senate would provide up to $1 billion in state funds for any shortfalls.

New York’s eviction moratorium expired in January. New Yorkers who applied for rental assistance have protection from eviction while their applications are being reviewed.

But housing advocates calling for more rental relief say such protections won’t last forever.

Top Democrats in the Assembly and Senate also back using $250 million for a new permanent statewide rental subsidy.

UTILITY DEBT

Advocates estimate that about one in five New Yorkers are currently in households that are nearly $2 billion behind on electric or natural gas bills.

The Senate proposes setting aside $400 million in utility arrears assistance, while the Assembly proposes $500 million.

“Our state is one step closer to averting the utility arrears and shutoff crises and ensuring that nobody has to, or continues to, make the dangerous choices between purchasing food, paying for health care, or keeping the lights on and their home warm,” Richard Berkley, executive director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York, said.

HOME CARE

Advocates for boosting access to home care in New York had launched ad campaigns in recent weeks.

“New York faces the worst home care shortage in America — and this crisis has left tens of thousands of aging adults and disabled people without care and forced them into dangerous nursing homes,” New York Caring Majority co-director Ilana Berger said.

The Senate proposes spending an additional $625 million to boost pay for home care workers, and $277.5 million to remove the existing eligibility requirement for personal and home care.

The Assembly’s plan would set a minimum wage for home care workers at 150% of the regional minimum wage.

CHILDCARE

Lawmakers want to boost funding and expand eligibility in hopes of one day offering universal child care throughout New York.

The Senate is proposing to spend $2.2 billion over the next year.

Over the next four years, New York would then expand access to subsidized child care to households earning up to 500% of the federal poverty level, which is $138,750 for a family of four.

Co-payments would be capped at no more than 10% of household income for households between 300% and 500% of the federal poverty level.

The Assembly’s plan includes over $3 billion in childcare investments to expand eligibility for subsidies from the current 200% level to 400% over three years. The Assembly also wants to provide extra grants to help providers afford costs including wages and rent.

HELP FOR UNDOCUMENTED NEW YORKERS

Both chambers propose $345 million for a state health coverage option for more than 150,000 low-income New Yorkers whose immigration status bars them from getting health insurance.

But lawmakers and Hochul’s budget proposal all exclude extra COVID-19 relief for undocumented workers — a sign that the state budget likely won’t either.

New York has exhausted its $2.1 billion pandemic relief fund for workers whose immigration status made than ineligible for federal stimulus checks and other COVID-19 relief.

BAN ON NEW FOSSIL FUEL IN NEW CONSTRUCTION

The state Senate proposes banning fossil fuels in new construction, in line with a similar law passed in New York City in 2021.

The Senate’s proposal would start with banning natural gas in new buildings under seven stories starting in 2024. That’s sooner than the timeline proposed by Gov. Hochul, who wants to start the ban in 2027.

The Assembly did not include the proposal at all in its budget.

Speaker Carl Heastie said Monday that the chamber’s leaders only wanted to include fiscal, not policy, initiatives in the budget.

CLEAN SLATE BILL

The Senate wants to use the budget to pass legislation to automatically seal the records of many criminal convictions at least three years from sentencing for a misdemeanor, or seven years for a felony.

That bill, the Clean Slate Act, did not pass last summer, but advocates say it’s needed to help people re-integrate into society and find jobs and housing.

The legislation — sponsored by Sen. Zellnor Myrie, a Democrat from Brooklyn — would not apply to sex offenses, or for people who are currently under parole or probation or facing a pending criminal charge. Courts, or anyone required to run fingerprint-based criminal history checks, could access the records in certain scenarios.

Individuals are eligible if they avoid new charges and convictions and complete probation, parole or post-release supervision.

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