As we reach the mid-point of 2015, we are taking a moment to celebrate several recent policy victories at the city and state level, even as we look ahead to important work that remains to be done to advance a true economic mobility agenda for struggling New Yorkers.
New funds to restore public housing
Last July, we issued a report showing the severe physical and financial decline of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) due to years of disinvestment by the city, state, and federal government. This year, the state responded with an unprecedented $100 million capital commitment to NYCHA. We’ve since kept pressure on lawmakers to make the case that these hard-won funds should be directed to the most pressing repair needs across NYCHA’s 328 developments, such as failing roofs.
New York City has also committed $300 million in its capital budget over the next three years to fund major improvements. In addition, following our recommendation, the city relieved NYCHA of $73 million in annual payments for police services, as well as $32 million in PILOT payments in lieu of property taxes—all of which frees up more funding to protect and restore public housing.
A second chance at employment
On June 10, the NYC Council overwhelmingly passed the Fair Chance Act, a historic piece of legislation preventing discrimination in employment based on involvement in the criminal justice system. The law does not require employers to hire individuals with criminal convictions; it simply affords these applicants an opportunity to be judged on their merits. CSS is proud to have been the primary legal advocate behind this vitally important bill, and to be part of a broad-based coalition of advocates, organizers, union members, and faith leaders who worked hard to ensure that all job applicants are treated fairly.
A raise for tipped workers
The most recent increase in the New York State minimum wage—a deal reached in 2013 to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.00 an hour by 2016—left out an important group: 172,000 tipped workers in the food services and accommodation industry. After issuing a report finding that many of these workers are struggling to stay out of poverty, CSS called on New York to increase wages for tipped workers and eliminate the disparity between the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and the statewide minimum wage. In February, Governor Cuomo announced that New York would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers, from $5.00 an hour to $7.50 an hour.
College success for foster youth
A pair of CSS reports helped open up educational opportunities for thousands of young New Yorkers who are in, or have gone through, the foster care system. Our research showed that just 25 percent or less of New York’s 4,000 college-aged foster youth were enrolled in college or vocational school—compared with 60 percent of the state’s public school students enrolled in some form of post-secondary education after high school. Working with the Fostering Youth Success Alliance, we advocated for a new statewide initiative and won $1.5 million in new funding to create a smoother path to college for youth in foster care.
Strong new protections against surprise, out-of-network medical bills
When CSS and the Health Care for All New York (HCFANY) coalition discovered that many New Yorkers were being blindsided by surprise medical bills for services they unknowingly received from an out-of-network provider, we worked closely with the Department of Financial Services and other advocacy groups to achieve a landmark consumer protection law. The new law, which took effect in April, holds consumers harmless from surprise bills, improves disclosure and transparency, and extends network adequacy protections to more types of insurers.
What's Ahead for 2015: An Economic Mobility Agenda
New Yorkers, of all income levels, say they feel "stuck" on the economic ladder and strongly support policies that would help them move up, according to our latest Unheard Third survey. Despite progress at the city and state level on a handful of important issues this term, the 2015 legislative session in Albany concluded this month without substantial action on rent regulation, the minimum wage, or paid family leave, among other key priorities. Here are some of the issues that draw widespread support in our survey, which could have a substantial impact on the economic security and mobility of low-income New Yorkers.
Paid family leave
New moms need paid family leave, and so do new dads and workers who need to care for a seriously ill family member. It’s common sense. New York State legislators are considering a bill that would make a simple change to our state’s existing Temporary Disability Insurance program to provide workers with up to twelve weeks of paid family leave. Other states like California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island already do this. CSS will continue to fight to make New York next!
Transit: time to give the working poor a break
One out of three poor New Yorkers—and 31 percent of the working poor—say they are often unable to afford public transit, according to our recent survey of low-income New Yorkers. We’re urging action on transit costs, calling on the MTA to join with cities like Seattle, Washington that offer a reduced fare for riders with low incomes.
The fight for fifteen
As other major cities enact minimum wages that will reach $15 an hour in the coming years, it’s clear that New York must do more. A New York State Department of Labor Wage Board is considering raising wages for fast food industry workers and is expected to issue a recommendation in July. David Jones recently testified in support of increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour for fast food workers, to allow them to keep their families' heads above water. Our recent Unheard Third survey shows that three in four New York City residents concur—and want to see this wage level reached for all workers in New York State.
We continue to push forward on these and other critical issues, and urge you to join us in taking action in the weeks and months ahead.