Cuts to child care programs in Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed budget, affecting services for thousands of city children, are dominating this year’s spending fight between the mayor and City Council. But while the mayor has taken heat for his proposed $170 million in reductions, an important force behind the scenes are cuts in federal funding to New York City that have hit child care particularly hard.
This year’s city budget anticipates a $205 million drop in federal social service funding over last year, including a projected $16 million decline to Head Start and another $14 million for the Child Care Block Grant.
Driving those declines is the expiration of federal stimulus funds, which had contributed up to $28 million a year for child care alone over the last three fiscal years. Meanwhile, Head Start funding remains uncertain because New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services is among the 132 local agencies that must reapply to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the program after failing to meet so-called quality thresholds.
“We are confident that we will not lose the majority of the $190 million we currently receive,” ACS Commissioner Ron Richter told the City Council at a March budget hearing. “Our technical deficiency had nothing to do with the quality of New York City’s Head Start programs.”
The cuts and uncertainty at the federal level have forced the city to spend more — or cut back.
“Any decrease at the federal and state level inevitably impacts how much New York City can help children and families,” said Katherine Eckstein, director of public policy at the Children’s Aid Society. “It doesn’t mean, however, that New York City can turn it back on the neediest children and families.”