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2024-25 Budget Overview

Amanda Agallipeau April 26, 2024

Policy Matters – Budget Update

The Budget season has wrapped.  

“In the end, the New York State budget maintained funding for essential civil legal services programs that support low-income New Yorkers, which is a win for our community, especially considering the budget forecast in January, projecting a significant shortfall in state revenue. However, there were also some deeply concerning developments. Most notably for us, the last minute ‘sweep’ of $55 million from the IOLA Fund, a fund that has never before been breached. With that said, both the Governor and the Legislature have assured the legal community that this was a one-time occurrence. We now look to the rest of the legislative session, where we will continue our efforts to pass legislation that advances protections and resources for those who need them most,” said Kristin Brown, President and CEO of Empire Justice Center.

 

Here are updates on our priorities and a few notable items:

  • Restoration of $40 million in funding for the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), which helps distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure.
    Unfortunately, in a last-minute development, both HOPP and $15 million for the legislative add-on for an eviction prevention program were funded by a sweep of $55 million from IOLA (Interest on Lawyers Account) Fund. As readers may recall, the Executive Budget originally included a proposal to sweep $100 m from IOLA to the general fund, but after this was rescinded in the 30-day amendments after outcry from the broader legal community. IOLA funds are not taxpayer dollars and are earmarked for civil legal services for low-income New Yorkers. You can read more in the New York Legal Services Coalition’s statement about the sweep.

 

  • The budget included a small increase for a total of $4.969 million for the Consumer Health Advocates (CHA), which helps New Yorkers understand how to use and maximize their health insurance coverage, access needed health services, reduce medical debts, and address unfair denials of needed health services. While this funding remains below the programs funding two years ago, we are pleased to be making progress toward restoration.

 

  • Level funding of $13.52 million, including the county match, for the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP), which helps disabled New Yorkers access federal SSI/SSD benefits.

 

  • Judiciary Civil Legal Services (JCLS), which supports general civil legal aid statewide, was funded as proposed by the Office of Court Administration in the Executive budget – 3% COLA and 3% increase — which is a notable, considering it being a tight budget year and we are very appreciative.

 

  • The final budget included the governor’s proposal of additional $20 m this year and $100 m over 3 years, to help avoid cuts to Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funded programs. VOCA is funded with federal dollars, however, funding levels are down dramatically, which is posing a risk to programs. (You can read more in the testimony presented by Remla Parthasarathy, Esq., Managing Attorney, at a Senate hearing On Human Services Programs for Domestic Violence Survivors.) We are grateful that the state made a multi-year commitment to help ensure New York victims of crime had access to the services they need*.

 

  • Eviction prevention – the budget included last year’s funding levels of $40 million + the $15 million legislative add from last year, which expanded the program to NYC and increased funds outside NYC by $5 million. Unfortunately, the $15 million was funded by the same sweep of IOLA funds that funded HOPP. So while these are critically needed legal services, this ultimately means a net loss in funds for legal services in New York State.

 

  • The final budget included $50 million in Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) funding for anti-poverty pilots, including $25 million to be spent in Rochester, where our largest offices are located.

 

  • The Consumer and Small Business Protection Act was removed from negotiations toward the end of the budget process. We will join other advocates and continue to push for this bill (S.795 Comrie / A.7138 Weinstein) to be passed before the end of session.

 

  • The much-needed Cash Assistance increase that was included in the Assembly one-house was not included in the final budget. Assistance for basic needs is designed to help people on public assistance pay for necessities like clothing, diapers, hygiene products, over the counter medication, and transportation. The levels of assistance have not been updated since 2012, and are now woefully inadequate. The result is that a family of three with no other income receiving cash assistance is granted only $389 a month to meet their basic needs, including money for utilities.

Thank You For Reading

If you’d like to keep up with our policy work, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or visit the Policy Central page on our website.

If you need civil legal help, you can email us.

 

The Empire Justice Policy Team

*edited 5/1/24 to reflect an error reported in the VOCA award