New York State’s FY21 Enacted Budget was approved in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, with a truncated negotiation process and votes taken in the state Senate and Assembly under social distancing protocols. Going into January, a large Medicaid deficit appeared to be the biggest challenge facing New York’s fiscal situation. By March, steep drops in tax revenue due to large losses in the stock market and unprecedented unemployment became even bigger threats.
The enacted budget includes a provision that has never been invoked before, allowing the Governor to adjust the budget at three points during the fiscal year – April 30, June 30, and December 31 – if revenue varies more than 1% ($1 billion) from the estimates built into the budget passed April 2, 2020. The budget was balanced with $11 billion in borrowing and an infusion of federal Coronavirus relief funds.
Though there are no significant cuts to important programs that serve children and youth, the budget offers little good news for them. There is meager progress made toward addressing the daunting circumstances many families face. All New Yorkers will feel the effects of COVID-19 for years to come, but for some children – particularly the most vulnerable because of poverty, racism, trauma and health inequities – its impact will be permanent. Our health care, education, child care and other systems are fragile and siloed. We have a chance to use federal resources to rebuild the systems that failed children before and during the COVID-19 crisis, to make them stronger and more integrated than they’ve ever been. We hope New York State acts on the hard lessons learned during the pandemic by investing in affordable high-quality early learning, developmental services, income supports, and other strategies – at scale to fully meet the need, integrated into a seamless continuum, and sustainable irrespective of crisis – to help create a solid foundation on which New York’s children can grow and thrive.