(This press release is in response to Mayor Bloomberg’s Executive Budget. For background on Bloomberg’s proposed HIV/AIDS cuts, see our fact sheet.)
May 3, 2012 | Contact: Jaron Benjamin, 718-864-3932 (cell)
New York – Mayor Bloomberg’s FY13 Executive Budget proposal fails to restore more than $10 million in funding for housing, healthcare and nutrition services for homeless and low-income people living with HIV/AIDS according to VOCAL-NY, a grassroots organization led by HIV-positive New Yorkers and housing providers. City Council and Mayor Bloomberg are expected to reach a final agreement on the FY13 budget, which begins July 1st, sometime in June.
The mayor’s budget cuts take place against a backdrop of recent policy changes that have imposed new barriers to housing assistance for homeless people living with HIV/AIDS, including drug testing and work requirements for their children, that have been criticized by City Council Members and advocates.
“Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t seem to understand his own programs,” said Barry Blackstone, a VOCAL-NY member living with HIV/AIDS and supportive housing client. “His administration has enacted a ‘get tough’ drug policy that punishes low-income people with HIV/AIDS struggling with addiction and while he continues an all-out assault on supportive housing that helps people better manage their addiction. Bloomberg must realize these cuts will push more people like me into shelters, emergency rooms and hospital beds.
Among the mayor’s cuts for HIV/AIDS housing, the Executive Budget would prevent the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) from meeting its promise to develop 1,000 new units of supportive housing for homeless people living with HIV/AIDS through the New York/New York III agreement within ten years, an initiative Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs have sought to define as part of their legacy. HASA lags behind all other city and state agencies in achieving the housing goals set forth in the New York/New York III agreement and will completely miss the deadline if the mayor’s budget is adopted. Moreover, Governor Cuomo has already approved 50% in matching funding for these promised units through the NYS Department of Health for FY12 – 13. There were nearly 1,7000 homeless people living with HIV/AIDS being warehoused in HASA emergency housing as of January 2012.
The state provides 27% in matching dollars for most other HASA funding eliminated under the Executive Budget, which means the mayor’s budget triggers an additional loss of millions in state funding. In addition to the more than $10 million in cuts to the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) budget, the Bloomberg administration also eliminated $4.8 million in broker’s fees for all Human Resources Administration (HRA) rental assistance programs last year, which is making it harder for HASA clients to move out of emergency housing on a timely basis.
Speaker Christine Quinn grilled HRA commissioner Robert Doar during a recent General Welfare hearing at City Hall, citing the recent policy changes. She also expressed dissatisfaction at the Bloomberg administration’s repeated attempts to eliminate funding for HIV/AIDS supportive housing programs.
City Council restored $5.1 million for supportive housing programs in the current FY12 budget and criticized the mayor’s proposed cuts in their official response to his preliminary FY13 budget. Mayor Bloomberg first proposed cutting HASA supportive housing contracts in the FY10 budget (and doubled the proposed cut last year), although City Council has restored most of the funding each year since then. There were approximately 4,600 HASA-contracted supportive housing units, including NY/NY III, as of January 2012.
ACT UP made the mayor’s attack on homeless people living with HIV/AIDS a central focus of their 25th anniversary protest a couple weeks ago, and HRA Commissioner Doar has been confronted by people living with HIV/AIDS during protests outside his house and office over new policies making it harder to access housing assistance.
The mayor’s proposed cuts follow years of attempts to reduce funding for HIV/AIDS services and block reforms. Mayor Bloomberg completely eliminated a $4 million program that helped homeless people living with HIV/AIDS find permanent housing in 2009. In 2010, Mayor Bloomberg’s opposition led Governor Paterson to veto the bipartisan 30 percent rent cap bill to prevent homelessness for 10,000 low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS who pay half or more of their disability income towards rent. The bill was projected to result in direct cost savings by reducing emergency shelter placements and rental arrears.
HIV/AIDS housing advocates are calling for a full restoration of supportive housing, rental assistance and nutrition funding.
BACKGROUND: HIV/AIDS IN NEW YORK CITY
About 45,000 low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS and their families rely on HASA for housing, food stamps, Medicaid and other supports.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is growing. The number of New York City residents diagnosed with HIV/AIDS grew by 21% during Mayor Bloomberg’s first two terms during 2001 and 2009, according to data from the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene. More than 107,000 New Yorkers are living with HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS is driven by social and economic inequalities. Black and Latino New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, along with gay men of all races. Nearly nine out of ten of HASA clients are Black or Latino.
Poverty and homelessness are major drivers of the epidemic. Research has found that homeless people living with HIV/AIDS have much higher mortality rates, weaker immune systems and higher risk behaviors compared with those who have stable and affordable housing. A 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) identified poverty as the biggest factor in HIV transmission among heterosexuals in urban areas.
VOCAL-NY is building grassroots power to end the HIV/AIDS crisis, war on drugs & mass incarceration. For more information, visit www.VOCAL-NY.org and follow us on Twitter @VOCALNewYork.