Governor Andrew Cuomo and members of the state legislature have delivered another on time state budget that provides additional funding to support some of our most vulnerable populations including the homeless, at-risk children, and people struggling with domestic hunger and high food insecurity. At a time when most of the nation is trying to come to terms with a chronic dysfunctional congress, an unpredictable presidential campaign, and several state efforts to roll back progress made in relation to gender equality, New York State continued to focus on important issues such as rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, approving an increase to the minimum wage, and providing the necessary funding to support our not-for-profit industry to better serve our residents in need.
The Governor’s $155 billion spending plan which was approved by both the Senate and Assembly on April 1, 2016 includes additional funding to support the state’s 8 regional food banks including Long Island Cares, Inc. An additional $4.5 million was added to the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) that funds food purchases, administrative support, infrastructure grants and nutrition education provided by the regional food banks. This additional support increased the base funding for hunger prevention to $34.5 million annually for the next five years. During last minute negotiations both houses agreed to add an additional $500,000 to the HPNAP budget, increasing the total to $35 million per year, a move that was largely supported by our Long Island delegation.
The 2017 budget also continues to provide $250,000 for the Child and Adult Care Food Program that funds aid to children and adult care programs that improve access to nutritious foods for those at-risk. Long Island Cares benefits from this funding stream that supports 10 of our 15 Kids Café afterschool programs operated in partnership with local Boys and Girls Clubs. More than 700 children on Long Island attend Kids Café’s each month and have received over 7,300 nutritious meals while participating in these programs. Another $250,000 was annualized for the Farm-to-School Program increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables for children at the school level. Much of the fresh produce purchased by Long Island Cares and other entities to feed children in need are purchased from our state and local farmers and have a positive impact upon on local economy.
The Governor has also required that resources be made available to shelter the homeless especially during inclement weather which he spelled out in a recent executive order. Long Island Cares provides emergency food, personal care items and other assistance to an average of 400 homeless individuals each month through our Hope for the Homeless Mobile Outreach Unit. A portion of our annual HPNAP funds directly support Long Island’s homeless population, as well as seniors, veterans, and immigrants in need. Although the hallmark of the 2017 state budget might be defined by the approval of the $15 minimum wage that some find controversial, it is a budget that seeks to take care of the most vulnerable New Yorkers including those who live and at times struggle on Long Island.
This article was initially published in the HIA-LI Reporter in May, 2016.