Legal Aid and ALAA Testify Before NYC Council on Mayor's Proposed FY 2011 Budget Modification Warning That Cuts Will Harm Struggling Families and Actually Cost the City Money

Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief, and Ellen Davidson, a staff attorney representing the UAW Local 2325, The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, testified before the New York City Council's Committees on Finance, Aging, General Welfare and Youth Services on December 6 on the Mayor's proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget modification. The impact of the Mayor’s proposed FY11 Executive Budget Modification would reduce the Council’s $2 million allocation for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s anti-illegal eviction program by 5.4 percent in the middle of the fiscal year. This proposed budget modification would have the effect of reducing the Council’s allocation of its own discretionary funding just five months after the Council made the allocation of these funds to prevent evictions and homelessness and address substandard housing conditions. In its allocation of Council discretionary funding in the June budget agreement, the Council already had to reduce funding for this program from $2.25 million to the current $2 million level.

Coming on top of prior State and City cuts in FY11 funding for civil legal services, a 5.4 percent cut for The Legal Society’s $713,888 allocation from the Council for this HPD-funded anti-eviction legal services program will reduce the Society’s housing-related constituent services in all five boroughs of the City. At a time when homelessness is at record levels in New York City and anti-eviction legal services have been found to save four dollars in averted shelter costs for every one dollar of program cost, this proposed budget modification is counter-productive and will actually cost the City money.

Banks told the Council that while "we are mindful of the extreme financial difficulties that the City is facing. At the same time, these extraordinary economic conditions are having an especially harsh impact on low income New Yorkers. The need for the legal help that the Society provides to these struggling families and individuals is increasing exponentially, particularly for matters involving housing-related problems that all too often lead to homelessness."