Press Statements

NYS Senate and Assembly Cave to Cuomo on Down Payment to End Homelessness and Overdose in Budget Negotiations

April 2, 2021

For Immediate Release

April 2, 2021

NYS Senate and Assembly Cave to Cuomo on Down Payment to End Homelessness and Overdose in Budget Negotiations

New Yorkers Homeless and Struggling with Drug Use Highlight Their Decade Long Fight for Tax Increases in Solidarity with the Needs of All of New York, Only to be Left Out Again

New York (April 2, 2021) — In the last 24-hours, VOCAL-NY has become aware of negotiations and changes proposed to homeless and overdose policies making them all but meaningless for tackling the historic and unrelenting homelessness and overdose crises in New York State. In response to this news, VOCAL-NY released the following statement: 

The facts: The Senate one-house budget proposed four critical down payments to end homelessness and overdose. While the Assembly’s 1-budget neglected most of these issues, the Assembly Speaker did eventually commit his support. Under pressure from Governor Cuomo, every one of these proposals has either been removed, or so dramatically altered that they are all but meaningless for setting our state on a path to tackling the historic crises of homeless and overdose

  • $200 million toward Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP) a section 8 style voucher to re-house the homeless,

  • $250 million toward Housing Our Neighbors With Dignity (HONDA) which converts distressed properties into housing for the homeless and poor,

  • Roughly $20 million to provide lifesaving Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) to people in New York prisons and jails

  • $20 million to fully remove prior authorization for MAT for people enrolled in Medicaid, ensuring doctors, not insurance companies decide what treatments people struggling with opioid use need. 

Policy Details: HAVP has been transformed into an entirely different program and funding has been cut in half. OTDA will administer the program and counties will be required to submit plans and applications to the State in order to access resources. Homeless New Yorkers will have to wait for Robert Mujica and OTDA to give additional approval to get a housing voucher that does not even meet average rents across New York State. This all but ensures upstate communities don’t ever see these funds. And while some money will be allocated towards hotel conversions, HONDA will not be adopted in the final budget, and spending of funds is pursuant to the passage of a bill. This means more delays for homeless New Yorkers and more room for the Governor to pursue his own proposal, which is simply a real estate subsidy for REBNY.

For the third year in a row, fully removing prior authorization to lifesaving MAT for people enrolled in Medicaid has been cut out of the budget, because the Governor would rather save a few million dollars and continue to let people die. And, the bill that would save countless lives, and end forced, tourtorus withdrawals by providing MAT inside prisons and jails has been taken off the table — and the Governor is trying to control critical funding for MAT programs by denying funds to go to county jails.  

Our Long-Term Fight for Justice for All

Since 2011, we have waged a campaign for justice and prosperity against a Governor fixated on two beliefs: austerity and his own power. New Yorkers living with HIV, homeless, struggling with drug use, and who are formerly incarcerated have continuously put their bodies on the line to demand critical community investments – not just for themselves – but for all New Yorkers.

We believed that the steady stream of scandals and news showing New Yorkers the true Andrew Cuomo would embolden our legislators to stand up to this political bully and serial abuser of people and communities. It hasn’t. We believed the tragic consequences of a decade of regressive budgets would ensure our leaders made ending homelessness and overdose their priority. It hasn’t. Our communities will stay homeless and thousands will die because the legislature capitulated to Governor Cuomo.

We applaud the legislature for the passage of marijauna legalization that is grounded in racial and economic justice, and H.A.L.T. to end the torture and human rights abuse of solitary confinement. We applaud imminent historic increases to public education and hopeful improvements to Medicaid funding. We eagerly await details on rent relief, the Fund for Excluded Workers, and progressive tax policies that could transform our state. But for today we mourn the imminent passage of yet another budget with historic needs around homelessness and overdose deaths, totally unmet.

To all of New York: we are your loved ones sleeping in streets, your brothers and sisters dying of overdose, your neighbors locked away in cages, the over 100,000 fellow New Yorkers who have died from AIDS since that plague first hit New York. We have and will continue to fight for all of us. We plead with you to do the same. To not forget us. And, to remember that it is those with power who tell us that we have to decide between funding our schools, or housing our people, between keeping hospitals open or keeping people alive. 

We will never accept these choices. And we hope you won’t either.”


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