Today, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) and NYC Department for the Aging Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli spoke out against House Republicans' effort to eliminate the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program, which helps fund protective services for abused children, home-based services for the disabled and elderly, and a variety of other services for vulnerable populations. This effort would strip away $63.9 million in federal funding for New York City per year, significantly hurting NYC's seniors, persons with disabilities, children, and middle-class families. Joining Crowley and Barrios-Paoli were Suleika Cabrera-Drinane, President and CEO of the Institute for the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly; Bobbie Sackman, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Council of Senior Centers and Services; Cara Berkowitz, Director of City Legislative Affairs, UJA-Federation; and Carin Tinney, Policy Analyst, United Neighborhood Houses.
Last week, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, which Rep. Crowley sits on, put forward legislation to permanently eliminate SSBG as part of their misguided approach to deficit reduction. The SSBG program provides $1.7 billion to help states and local communities deliver critical services to 23 million children, seniors and disabled Americans through a flexible funding source. This flexibility means states and local governments can determine what programs and services should be funded in order to best meet the needs of the community.
In New York City, a major use of the funding through SSBG is to support services for seniors, so that they can continue to live in their home free from the fear of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. In addition to funding adult protective services programs, the City also uses SSBG to fund senior centers and domestic violence services.
"Yet again, Republicans are willing to put millionaires and billionaires ahead of our seniors, children and working families. But what's most surprising is that until this week, Republicans have long supported the Social Services Block Grant and the services it provides. This about-face by my Republican colleagues is really a slap in the face to our most vulnerable citizens," said Rep. Joe Crowley. "The simple fact is that without the Social Services Block Grant, senior centers' doors will close, adoption caseworkers will be let go, and protective services for children and mentally ill people will be eliminated. There is no question we need to make tough choices to reduce the deficit, but we can't slash and burn the very safety net that is helping to lift up our nation's most vulnerable citizens. I will continue to fight this legislation and ensure New York City's needs are met."
"The proposed elimination of the Social Services Block Grant--also known as Title XX-- would force DFTA to close more than 100 senior centers," said Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, Commissioner of the New York City Department for the Aging. "Many of these older New Yorkers are of low-income and rely on senior centers for a meal and a chance to socialize and remain connected to the community. The loss of these vital programs and services would have devastating consequences for the seniors of New York City."
"The Social Services Block Grant program must be protected to ensure New York City's most vulnerable communities continue to receive the crucial services they desperately need," said NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Queens). "With this legislation, House Republicans will be putting the burden of our fiscal crisis on the backs of children, seniors and the disabled - the very people who can ill afford it. Permanently ending these social services will have nothing but crippling effects throughout our city and our country as a whole."
"The Republicans have opened a new front in their shameless assault on our most vulnerable," said State Senator Jose Peralta. "To their efforts to undermine health care reform, Social Security and Medicare, they have added the Social Services Block Grant program. The Republican plan to kill the program and funding for essential New York City services to seniors, children and victims of domestic violence is as disgraceful as it is ruthless."
The Republican legislation to eliminate SSBG passed out of the Ways and Means Committee with all Democrats opposing, and will now be combined with other Republican-led "deficit reduction" proposals and brought before the full House of Representatives for a vote.