WEEKEND EDITION

The Tattered Safety Net: Holding Bloomberg Accountable

| July 19, 2011 4:06 PM

In early May, the Bloomberg administration held a kick-off event to celebrate a five-year, $100 million expansion of the mayor’s anti-poverty pilots, now called the Social Innovation Fund Learning Network.

Less than two months later, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council agreed on a budget for fiscal year 2012 that included the 10th consecutive cutback on anti-poverty agencies.

The two events highlight the unreal nature of the Bloomberg administration’s approach to fighting poverty.

On May 12 thousands of activists marched by City Hall to protest city budget cuts. While the number of poor people has not decreased since the mayor announced his anti-poverty initiative, the funding to get them out of poverty has. MetroFocus/Sam Lewis

Since 2006, the poverty rate has remained virtually unchanged, with about 20 percent of city residents classified as poor. In 2009, 10.5 percent of New Yorkers lived in deep poverty — with incomes less than half the poverty level, or below $10,500 for a family of four. At the same time, the wealthiest New Yorkers have become ever richer, giving New York the greatest gap between rich and poor of any major city in the country.

 

Cutting Public Programs

While the number of poor people has not decreased since the mayor announced his anti-poverty initiative, the funding to get them out of poverty has. The 2012 budget agreed to by the City Council and mayor is, at $66 billion, about $5.2 billion smaller than it would be without those cuts. The city faces real budget problems, but anti-poverty programs are not only not a priority; they are a target.

Determining the impact of these cuts on anti-poverty programs is difficult. The Mayor’s Management Report, intended to provide a measure of the effects of such cuts, offers no help. But a simple analysis of cutbacks in the city workforce since the budget reduction began offers some clues.

Agencies that provide basic city services to poor and working class New Yorkers, including education, child care, health, homeless services, housing and parks, have lost a disproportionate number of workers — 6 percent to more than 26 percent of their staffs. Yet the police department, in contrast, has lost fewer than 3 percent of its uniformed officers, and the corrections department has actually increased its uniformed staffing by over 2 percent.

Read the full post at Gotham Gazette.

This piece has been amended from the original article.

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