Governor Andrew Cuomo is allocating more state money to help the city's homeless, but those funds require the approvals of both the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader, and neither has signed off on Cuomo's plan. Zack Fink filed the following report.
An agreement among state leaders calls for the release of $2 billion in state funds, the bulk of which would be used for supportive housing with services for the homeless. That memo requires the signatures of the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader. But this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he alone had signed it, bypassing a negotiated agreement.
"What the governor did, in my opinion, was try to negotiate, try to get there that way, which is always the best way to start. Hasn't been successful yet," said Christine Quinn, CEO of Win. "He is now trying a newer and more aggressive route, which often works for Andrew Cuomo."
The deal came about during the negotiations for the state budget in March. The funds were agreed to, but wouldn't be released until all three leaders could work out the final points. As the end of session approached, it became clear that negotiations on this issue were not taking place, and that made some lawmakers like Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi very concerned.
"Technically, it can get negotiated later. The practicalities? There is no shot," Hevesi said. "Everybody goes back to their district in an election year. Nobody's going to be focused. Nobody's going to want to cut a deal."
There is still no deal, although Cuomo appears to be trying to force one. Meantime, the Manhattan Institute is out with a new report that says supportive housing should be prioritized for homeless individuals who are mentally ill, even though advocates say 70 percent of those in shelters are families with kids.
"We are spending a lot of money on homelessness," said Stephen Eid of the Manhattan Institute. "There is no end in sight to homelessness. There is no end in sight to the untreated problem of mental illness. Let's make sure that we are putting these resources to the highest and best use."
"I agree we need to have a priority for the mentally ill. But we cannot also leave behind folks who are recovering from substance abuse issues, domestic violence," Quinn said.
A spokesman for Hevesi says they have referred the matter the Ways and Means Committee for an opinion. Once they receive that opinion, they will be more likely to comment publicly.