Photo: PAUL BUCKOWSKI, Albany Times Union
ALBANY – Advocates for children’s well-being will be watching how Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 agenda, as released last week in his State of the State, will play out in the budget he proposes later this month.
The governor’s 376-page outline of priorities for the year includes investing in the first 1,000 days (about three years) of children’s lives. Kate Breslin, president of the Schuyler Center for Analysis & Advocacy, said Tuesday that effort is high on her organization’s list of concerns, whose work focuses on New York children and families living in poverty. Research shows neglect and negative experiences early in life can have long-term impacts.
As other advocates have done in the weeks before Gov. Andrew Cuomo releases his state budget, the Schuyler Center on Tuesday presented its argument for a state investment in New York families to dozens of policymakers and nonprofit representatives assembled at the Legislative Office Building. A challenge for children’s advocates, Breslin said, is convincing elected officials to spend money now while understanding that it may take years for positive results to materialize.
“Many solutions, many efforts, will take longer than a budget year or an election cycle to bear fruit,” Breslin said. “Our job together is to convince our leaders, our policymakers, to make tough choices and serious investments now that generate opportunities and outcomes that certainly bear fruit, but that they may not be able to claim in the next election.”
The nonprofit’s analysts painted a bleak picture of the status of New York’s most vulnerable children. The state ranks 41st in the country on measures of children’s economic well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. That’s despite the fact that New York lags just one other state, California, in the number of residents whose net worth tops $30 million, said Dede Hill, the Schuyler Center’s policy director.
Most poor New York families are headed by working parents, Hill said, and the high cost of child care is among their major hurdles.
Almost 60 percent of children age 3 and under are covered by Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income Americans. In August, Gov. Cuomo directed the state Health Department to establish a First 1,000 Days on Medicaid working group to recommend ways to improve opportunities for young children and their families.
Among recommendations made by the Schuyler Center on Tuesday are strengthening the state’s child tax credit, which now exempts kids under 4 years old; increasing full-day pre-kindergarten beyond New York City; and expanding access to child care, including fair compensation for workers.
The Schuyler Center is also concerned about Congress’ failure to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Breslin said. Without action at the federal level, the state could run out of funding for CHIP by March.
New York has had a historically high rate of insurance coverage for children, in part due to CHIP and a robust Medicaid program.