New Yorkers push Congress to boost social service funding: ‘It’s about priorities’

Rep. Carolyn Maloney joined numerous nonprofits and concerned citizens at the Queensbridge Community Center Wednesday morning to call on Congress to increase federal human services spending before the fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The advocates called on the Senate to follow the priorities set out in House-approved appropriation bills. They are also asking that the New York Congressional delegation cosponsor the Working Families Tax Relief Act, which would expand the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit, and the Affordable House Credit Improvement Act, which according to one of the sponsors would expand and strengthen the affordable housing tax credit.

“I’m still fighting for social programs like I was when I was a teacher when I first began my career,” Maloney said. “Congress has a role to make sure that we reverse these years of federal budget cuts to these social programs that are important not only to New Yorkers, but across the whole country.”

During Wednesday’s community meeting, organizers stressed the importance of prioritizing human services, such as affordable housing and food stamps, in New York City. Nearly half of New Yorkers make less than $36,420 annually and can’t afford a basic standard of living, according to social service support nonprofit FPWA.

Derek Thomas, FPWA senior fiscal policy analyst, said approving the budget set forth by the House would undo “nearly a decade of austerity at the federal government” that reduced social service grants in New York City by more than $300 million.

“The average New Yorker struggling financially would see better options for housing, child care, food assistance, job training,” Thomas said. “We just passed a $2 trillion tax cut, so we have the money. It’s about priorities.”

The meeting’s attendees also called on representatives to fight a proposal that would limit access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Food Program (SNAP).

Alexander Rapaport, executive director of soup kitchen network Masbia who was in attendance, runs two nonprofit soup kitchens in Brooklyn and one in Queens. He said many people who regularly use SNAP and other public assistance programs now feel threatened by the Trump administration’s public charge rule and the eligibility requirements for SNAP.

“It pushes people to the soup kitchens and food pantries,” he said. “We get the brunt of all this. … America used to laugh at bread lines in communist countries. Now they prefer pushing people off of food stamps and sending them to bread lines. Is that what we call making America great again?”

In their fight for more human rights services, Maloney and nonprofit leaders collected roughly 50 signatures of support from human service providers, faith organizations and policy experts in New York City to submit to delegates.

Representatives for Senate Majority Leader MItch McConnell and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.