The Carl Kruger Dream List
The New York State Senate Republican majority leader has named a Brooklyn Democrat as the new social services chair. "In what his office is calling 'an historic display of bipartisanship' and many will likely view as a brilliant stroke of political gamesmanship, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, has named a Democratic Senator, Carl Kruger, of Brooklyn, to chair the Committee on Social Services."
The Social Services Committee oversees health care, welfare and other services in NY State. My organization - Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI) - and our CUNY student members will be going to Albany to meet with the new chair in mid-March. As part of the Empire State Economic Security Campaign (ES2), WRI has learned the importance of students' voices in the policy-making process. We look forward to the new chair's leadership on ES2 policy recommendations, which include:
* Strengthening work incentives by improving the earned income disregard. All earned income should be disregarded until a family's income is equal to the federal poverty guidelines for its family size and a 50% of income should be disregarded until families reach 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.
* Reforming the Unemployment Insurance System to increase the maximum benefit, and increase benefits at the bottom of the income distribution and establish dependent allowances. These program enhancements should be financed with an increase in the taxable wage base. New York should also expand eligibility for extended Unemployment Insurance benefits for those in training programs under Section 599 of the Unemployment Insurance Law.
* Expanding and rationalizing child care subsidies; and taking childcare funding out of the Flexible Fund for Family Services.
* Expanding transportation programs for people receiving welfare
* Making New York State's hourly work requirements no higher than the levels set by Federal law. Currently New York counties uniformly enforce a thirty-five hour plus work requirement on recipients despite their right, under Federal and State law, to get full participation credit once these individuals are participating for 20 hours (if the household has a child under six) or 30 hours (for all other households).
* Increasing the non-shelter portion of the public assistance grant from $291 to $450 for a family of three to reflect increase in the cost of living since the last adjustment in 1990.
* Increasing Fuel For Heating Allowances to account for inflationary increases since the last adjustments in 1987.
* Providing expedited food stamps for all applicants.
WRI values self-determination, equality, supportive community, and creativity - and these tenets are central to making policy that will work in New York. We deeply believe access to education for all is integral to retaining these values for a better New York in a changing world. We are looking forward to working with Senator Kruger. We will keep you posted on his progress on these important policy points.