Cuomo admin on de Blasio homeless request: ‘Too late’
Bill de Blasio's homeless commissioner, Gilbert Taylor, told the City Council this afternoon that he plans to travel to Albany tomorrow to lobby for permission to use state funds for rental subsidies, even as the Cuomo administration suggested it's too late for significant changes this year.
De Blasio's administration is requesting a change in the budgetary language that prevents New York City from using state funds to subsidize rents for homeless families leaving city-run shelters.
"We just started our conversations in Albany and those conversations are moving forward," Taylor told reporters, after testifying in front of the Council's Committee on General Welfare.
But a spokesperson for Cuomo suggested the proposal was unlikely to advance this year.
"As everyone knows, the budget is due in less than a week so we can assume the city's proposal will be for next year, because at this point it's too late to take up anything significant this year," said Melissa DeRosa, a spokeswoman for Cuomo.
Taylor did not specify say how much money the city would seek from the state, focusing instead on the language that restricts the city's use of the funds.
"If the language is removed then we'd be able to approach the state to get funding to help us provide rental assistance and the subsidies. Right now we have to get the language removed. That's the first step," Taylor said.
The second step, he added, would be to "consider what are rental assistance plan will look like but the first step is to get the language removed from the budget."
Sources close to Cuomo said de Blasio's administration never submitted a formal memo requesting any changes, which is the usual procedure when the city lobbies Albany during budget season.
Taylor said his office met with state legislative officials last week in Albany "to advance this plan."
At least one council member, Steve Levin of Brooklyn, will join the administration in Albany tomorrow.
"Unless we have a real subsidy program that is fully funded and matched with some permanent housing solutions, we are going to see an increase in the shelter population," Levin said. "Where we are today is terrible. Where we will be in a year if this is not removed from the state budget is going to be even worse."
During former mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure, the state cut what was known as the Advantage Program, which allowed the city to spend its Department of Homeless Services budget on rental assistance for families leaving shelters, as long as they were employed or actively seeking jobs.
De Blasio lamented the end of that program when he became mayor.
During his testimony, Taylor also noted the mayor has restored budget cuts to his agency. In February, de Blasio announced he would allocate $8.3 million in Fiscal Year 2014 and $19.1 million the following year for homeless services. There are currently 52,267 people living in the city's homeless shelters, including more than 22,000 children.