Statement on cuts to programs serving poor & vulnerable
Published on September 3rd, 2020
With the Covid-19 crisis that has sickened and killed many thousands of New Yorkers and continues to threaten us, Governor Cuomo faces an unenviable reality. While he must continue efforts to keep New Yorkers safe, at the same time it falls upon him to address a historic budget shortfall caused by the shutdown of the state’s economy and the absence of federal aid to state and local governments.
As the governor considers the steps needed to restore our state to fiscal stability, the New York State Bishops offer prayers for wisdom, as well as a reminder that the state must never balance its budget on the backs of the poor and vulnerable.
Published reports indicate that the state may be looking at sweeping 20 percent reductions across the board. Such a strategy is understandable as it appears on the surface to be the most equitable, but we must keep in mind that for the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers who depend on state-funded not-for profit human services providers, social equity already eludes them, and always has.
This is why our state Constitution specifies that, “The aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state…” (Art. XVII, Section 1)
We must not turn our back on women fleeing domestic violence, immigrants seeking legal resources, people with physical or developmental disabilities, the frail elderly, struggling single mothers and their young children, families who are homeless, those who have lost their jobs and don’t have enough food to put on the table, people suffering from addiction or mental illness, survivors of sexual abuse, offenders reintegrating into society, or the many other New Yorkers who most need our support.
Catholic Charities continues to minister to these individuals and families, but the challenges are greater than ever, with more demand for services, fewer donations as a result of increased unemployment, and reduced subsidies from dioceses necessitated by the loss of parish collections due to Covid-19 and other serious financial challenges.
This year, at the urging of Governor Cuomo, the state legislature voted to add the words “E pluribus unum” (“Out of many, one”) to our state flag. As decisions are made on how to distribute the pain of budget shortfalls, let us remember this sentiment of unity that includes our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.
The Catholic Conference represents the Bishops of New York State on public policy matters.