New York’s 2020 Legislative Session officially began on January 8, 2020 and Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his State of the State address. The State of the State is an opportunity for the Governor to set a tone and vision for the year ahead.

Evaluating this year’s address against the needs of New York children and families, it contained several promising proposals, and a number of disappointments.

As a general matter, we at Schuyler Center deeply appreciated the Governor’s sharp renunciation of intolerance, bigotry, and violence. Hate harms all New Yorkers—including our children and families.

Regarding Schuyler Center’s priority areas, the State of the State contained proposals that would seek to address some of the state’s most persistent challenges in child welfare. Among them was a proposal to implement a kin-first firewall. This would require that counties take a close look for appropriate kin before placing a child with non-relative foster parents. Generally, when children cannot remain safely with their family of origin, the next best place for them is with kin.

Another promising proposal in child welfare is to implement blind removals. New York, like the rest of the country, disproportionately removes black and brown children from their families of origin into foster care. Blind removals—which involve a supervisor with no knowledge of the race, ethnicity, or economic status of the family double checking all removal decisions—have been shown to reduce overt and implicit bias in foster care decisions, allowing more families of color to remain safely together.

We are also pleased the Governor mentioned child poverty in his address. With New York children more likely to live in poverty than in 31 other states, this issue deserves the attention of the Governor and all New York leaders. With respect to the specific proposals around fighting childhood poverty, we are particularly excited about the Governor’s proposal to expand the Empire State Child Tax Credit to cover families of young children under age four. It appears the Governor is proposing to fix a longstanding, glaring, and illogical omission in the State’s child tax credit.

We are concerned, however, that the proposals around child poverty are too modest to make a real dent in New York’s persistently high rate of child poverty. For this reason, we are urging the State to set a public target to cut child poverty in half by 2030. A target would help keep us on track over time: from one budget year to the next. It would also help us hold government to account.

Another disappointment: the Governor’s failure to include proposals regarding child care, even though his own Child Care Availability Task Force has identified ambitious, transformational proposals over the last year. The Task Force also has gathered evidence of the dire challenges facing providers, who cannot keep up with rising costs; educators, who cannot get by on the field’s low wages; and parents, who cannot afford or access quality child care. We remain hopeful there will be building block investments in child care in the Executive Budget.

The next big event in the legislative session: the release of the Executive Budget on January 21, 2020. We will be working hard throughout the session to secure the policies and investments New York children and families need to thrive.

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