NYS BPHA Legislative Caucus Advance Priorities From Harlem To The Hudson

May 3, 2023

This week, the members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus voted to advance their priorities from the 2023 People’s Budget in the SFY24 Enacted Budget.

Together, the Caucus held firm throughout negotiations to stymie unfavorable proposals and attain vital wins for Black, Latino, & AAPI New Yorkers.

The People’s Budget, presented earlier in the year, calls on the state to lay out an equitable vision for collective advancement focused on generational solutions centered on the intersectional needs of communities of color. To that end, the Caucus prioritized promoting further growth and opportunities in healthcare funding, climate action, transportation, labor rights, and a livable wage for workers. 

On the health funding front, the Caucus secured a funding increase for safety net hospitals, which serve about half of New York City’s population. To address the Black maternal crisis, the body focused on expanding access to doulas and maternal mental healthcare, and fortunately, funds were included to allow medicaid reimbursement for doula services. The enacted budget also funded the Daniel’s Law Task Force which will create a system where mental health workers, rather than police officers, respond to people in crisis. Regrettably, one item left out this year is healthcare expansion for immigrant New Yorkers. The Caucus will continue to fight for immigrant communities, who suffer from poor health outcomes due to their exclusion from our healthcare system. 

Regarding our state’s effort to address the housing crisis, this budget is left to be desired. The primary concern for the Caucus is ensuring that New Yorkers have the proper assistance from the state to have sustainable housing, which means enhancing tenant protections and providing support for homeowners. Caucus members successfully protected the Homeowners Protection Program which remains vital for the state’s foreclosure prevention efforts as well as allocated funds from the Emergency Rental Assistance for public housing residents. Unfortunately, nothing was finalized on the housing access voucher program or the good cause eviction proposal. These proposals have broad support and should be given due consideration as the session comes to a close. Renters cannot wait.  

Another critical area of investment for the Caucus is the state’s climate action and environmental justice measures. Recently, the Caucus has galvanized around environmental justice policy to address health disparities linked to environmental racism, and to create a climate jobs and education pipeline that connects youth of color to the Adirondacks. The Caucus is proud to have supported the Build Public Renewables Act in the FY24 Budget, and to have done the important work to ensure the proposal remained effective for New York’s carbon neutral goals. 

“This year, the Caucus’ focal point has been building resilient communities through efforts such as expanding free school meals, free MTA bus pilot, supporting all-electric buildings, and the timbuctoo pipeline. We have extracted tangible gains from this legislative session for our shared communities,” stated Assemblymember Michaelle C. Solages, Caucus Chair. “We will build upon our successes from the budget process and ensure that we are promoting policies that alleviate the everyday burden of New Yorkers. Our post-budget agenda aims to provide technical training and assistance to empower workers in trades and skilled work, break the school-to-prison pipeline, enact clemency justice, and end modern slavery in New York State

There is a depraved obsession with the bail law that is rooted in a disregard for folks that society continues to demonize and criminalize. Against empirical data, the Executive forced through a proposal to provide discretion to judges, which will undoubtedly result in an increase in incarceration of people of color, pre-trial. Further reinforcing a blatantly racist and non-rehabilitative system with no accompanying investments in long-term strategies that address the root causes of violence will not make our communities safer. If not for a reversal from the New York City District Attorneys, the Governor was also prepared to erode hard-fought discovery reform that enhanced an individual’s right to due process. As stated prior, the Executive should follow the example of the legislature, and focus on building a true system of justice that is based in fairness and the rule of law, not fear and incarceration. 

Now, the Caucus will work to present a legislative agenda that builds on the progress of the previous year and addresses unfinished business. Some of these items are A community commission on reparations remedies, solutions not suspensions, community hiring, public banking, New York for all, and much more.

“This was a protracted and paralyzing budget season as we fought as hard as we could for our constituents,” said Caucus 1st Vice Chair Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz. “Although we are disappointed with many aspects and the nature of this deal, such as the rollbacks to our signature bail reform law, we were still able to secure some critical wins for our communities. For example, we secured a massive increase in funding for statewide legal services for our immigrant communities, a pilot program to make five bus lines in New York City free for our commuters, environment initiatives including the All Electric Buildings Act, and we expanded food insecurity programs such as the Nourish NY program, HPNAP, and free school meals for our public school children.  We also secured historic increases in funding for AAPI organizations and a substantial increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit program.  I want to thank the Speaker and the Assembly staff for their overwhelming commitment and dedication to bettering the lives of all New Yorkers, but especially vulnerable districts such as mine who will certainly benefit from this investment in their community.”

“This has been a challenging budget process, but I’m proud we have secured some important victories for tenants, students, and commuters. We have more work ahead of us, and I plan to spend the remainder of the session working with my colleagues to deliver shared prosperity, true justice, and a sustainable future for all New Yorkers,” stated Senator Zellnor Myrie, Caucus 2nd Vice-Chair.

“We raised the minimum wage, bolstered our environmental protections and green energy future, and delivered a free bus pilot program in all five boroughs—just to name a few. I profoundly believe that these and many other areas of the budget will positively impact communities of color in the Bronx, Westchester, and across New York State. We as a caucus certainly could not get the Governor to meet all of our priorities but the battles we did win were because we held strong together. I want to thank Senate Leadership for fighting for every square inch of progress we were able to secure in this budget. I am proud of what we were able to accomplish but I am now even more motivated to keep advocating for our people every day until all of our needs are met,” stated Senator Nathalia Fernandez, Caucus Secretary. 

“The Caucus has led this Legislature’s fight for racial and economic justice in our state budget throughout prolonged negotiations and delays. We were able to secure meaningful victories in environmental justice, healthcare funding, mental health services, transportation, and more. I’m looking forward to spending the rest of the session furthering our fight for a better New York,” stated Senator Julia Salazar, Caucus Treasurer. 

“Every budget session, members of the BPHA Caucus work collaboratively to pass budget proposals that benefit the communities we serve. Despite the challenges faced this session, we were still able to deliver resources that will benefit some of the most vulnerable residents across New York State. As we continue to face persistent racial disparities in our communities that prevent residents from gaining fair access to resources, we must focus on key areas such as affordable and stable housing, quality healthcare, and education in order to move our underserved residents out of an endless cycle of poverty. I would like to thank Speaker Carl Heastie and my colleagues who have worked tirelessly on passing this state budget,” stated Assemblymember Demond Meeks, Caucus Parliamentarian. 

The New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus

The New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus is a sixty-seven-member body of state legislators representing a quarter of residents across the State of New York from Long Island, the metro New York City area, and upstate. To learn more, visit bphacaucus.com.

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