“[It’s] the economy stupid” is the phrase coined by President Bill Clinton's Chief Strategist James Carville, to internal campaign supporters, during the 1992 Presidential Campaign in an effort to clarify one of the key messages of that campaign. Today this phrase must be a mantra for our state legislators here on Long Island during a time when Long Island has some of the highest foreclosure rates in the state and is among one of the slowest regions to regain jobs since the recession. On Long Island 47.3% of jobs have been regained since the recession compared to 94.6% of jobs regained for the entire state.
During any given campaign season we often hear our state legislators speak in general platitudes about getting Long Islanders back to work and building our economy but we rarely hear about current State policies and aid distribution formulas that stifle these efforts here on Long Island. We need to ensure that Suffolk County does not continue to get shortchanged when it comes to distribution of aid that helps sustain our economy.
My opponent Senator Ken Lavalle and other locally elected State Senators, including the Senate Majority Leader from Nassau County, have failed to ensure that Suffolk County gets its fair and equitable share of state distributed aid including distribution of the New York State Child Care Block Grant (NYSCCBG).
Available and affordable child care is an essential foundation for rebuilding our economy. Helping provide our neighbors with the means to get back to work or remaining employed is beneficial to everyone in our shared economy. Lack of child care can force parents to obtain public assistance when they would prefer to provide for their family without such additional assistance. Providing these parents with opportunities for child care is not only beneficial to the wellbeing of both the parents and the children involved but it makes economic sense for the community. It is simple economics: If people are employed they pay taxes, they have greater purchasing power, and they are less likely to rely on costly public assistance.
Additionally child care has a two-fold stimulus effect for our local economy. Increasing child care opportunities not only helps get parents back to work — or maintain current employment — but it also means more jobs created in the child care industry.
Unfortunately in Suffolk County, subsidies for child care have decreased by over five million dollars since 2009 based on both a reduction in the New York State Child Care Block Grant (NYSCCBG) and the expiration of the one-time federal stimulus from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). While the expiration of the ARRA was expected, the State funds distributed to Suffolk County through the Child Care Block Grant should not have been subject to a reduction. [Note NYSCCBG is largely funded through a federal block grant which suffered cuts this year. However, to the credit of Governor Cuomo, the State offset the loss of TANF funds to help maintain the over-all level of funding.]
While Suffolk County has seen a 3.4 million dollar DECREASE in NYSCCBG funding alone between the 2009-2010 fiscal year and 2012-2013 fiscal year, Nassau County has seen 3.8 million dollar INCREASE in this same state funding. To put this in overall per capita terms, Suffolk County lost per capita the same amount Nassau County gained in the distribution of the block grant for fiscal year 2012-2013.
Suffolk County is among the top eight Counties in the State to lose the most NYSCCBG funding since 2009, while the demand for child care services in Suffolk County has grown exponentially. This increased demand for services is presumably due to the economic downturn along with the increased cost of living here on Long Island.
According to reports of County officials the decision of New York State OCFS to reduce Suffolk County’s share of the NYSCCBG was based on the County’s appropriate use of the one-time ARRA funding to fund child care for working poor families.
We need elected officials in our State Government who will advocate for ending State policies that penalize local governments in their efforts towards greater efficiency. We also need our State Senate representatives here in Suffolk County to speak out against the assumptions often made that Suffolk County is wealthy and can afford to do with less without taking into account our cost of living and our slow economic recovery.
Over the past year Suffolk County has been required to make the tough decisions necessary to address this loss of funding. Ultimately the County was forced to lower the eligibility ceiling for non-temporary assistance child care and increase the shared costs for participating families.
While Suffolk County was once able to provide this service to families with income levels up to the maximum eligibility of 200% of the federal poverty level, the County had to drop that ceiling last year to 185% and now 100%. Note that on long Island, if the federal poverty level was adjusted regionally, Long Island’s rate would be at approximately 450% of the federal poverty level due to our local cost of living. 100% is devastating for Long Island families.
Ultimately we need our local state legislators to fight to bring this funding back to Long Island at a more sustainable level to assist Suffolk County in its recovery efforts without further cost to local taxpayers. We also must ensure that Suffolk County receives its fair share in overall state aid distributions.
On Long Island we send more of our taxes and revenues to Albany then we receive in return. For upstate New York the opposite is true. Both the Republicans and the city-centric Democrats have been responsible for this inequity. Suffolk County cannot afford to continue subsidizing the rest of the State; it is time for us to receive our fair share.
I am running for State Senate to give Suffolk County taxpayers the advocate we need in Albany. I will work to ensure that the tax payers of Suffolk County have a voice in Albany and that we have the resources that we need to reduce taxes and help build our economy, including appropriate child care funding and our fair share of staid aid.
Jennifer J. Maertz, Esq., a Rocky Point resident, holds a B.S. degree from St. John's University, a JD from Touro Law, and an MBA from NYIT. Jennifer is a Democratic candidate for New York State Senate on the East End of Long Island and part of Brookhaven Town. www.JenniferMaertz.com